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adding that this meeting, as well as a close to the racing season, brought, and nothing but its being such, the labours of the best animal now in training to a close, after a very severe year's work; her introduction to Newmarket, however, brought no further profit to the pocket of Hesseltine; still he has small cause to complain, having had a rare pennyworth for his penny. Mr. Plummer's plan of making money by the turf has the recommendation of making sure, which is something, but with a mare like Alice Hawthorne, not exactly the most profitable one. Sending some horses out à la Tilbury, at two or three hundred per annum, would certainly be no bad speculation; but, as Alice has lately shown, a really good one will bring a moderate income to pocket in three minutes' work, and not hard work neither.
A principal feature in the racing of the past season was the large handicap, a modus operandi which has been gradually progressing, and now in the very zenith of popularity; Newmarket found it impossible to keep the October meetings going without its aid, and even the Suffolk for the spring is to be of more importance than hitherto. The Goodwood stake was one of the stepping-stones to the success of that now splendid week; the Liverpool cup owes its celebrity to the same system; and the Great Yorkshire, though only in the second season, rivalled the St. Leger at Doncaster. This fashion of bringing horses together has never been without opponents, who, as far as words go, are exceedingly wrath against it, though they have made but few converts amongst the practical part of the sporting world. A grand argument made use of is, that the worst horses are always favoured, and that it is the best race when the worst wins. Of the fallacy of all this we find many examples during the past season; we had quite, if not more than an average number of good handicaps, and yet who will say that Aristotle, Lucy Banks, Millepede, Venus, Pompey, Moss Trooper, or Coranna, should bear the malè, or even mediocriter mark? Another objection to the handicaps of last season was, that the young ones had rather more than their share of them. This again, on dissection, will be scarcely found to be correct: in the first place, there are very few old horses in training; and to prove this, let us take the number of horses in work at Newmarket at the close of last year, which will show at once how greatly the young ones preponderate. "The grand total" was one hundred and ninetytwo, of which there was one aged horse; two, 6 years old; three, 5 years old; ten, 4 years old; forty-one, 3 years old; eighty-one, 2 years old; and fifty-four yearlings. This can be hardly taken as a fair average of all the horses in training in the kingdom, the proportion of four years old and upwards being unusually small, while horses of that age (four years old) proved more successful than all others in handicap races; and here again let us have the proof:-The Ascot stake, the Liverpool cup, the Northumberland plate, the Goodwood stake, the Brighton stake, the Gloucestershire stake, the Devonshire stake, the Manchester cup, the Newton cup, and the Cesarewitch were all won by four years old. This, when duly considered, is not to be wondered at, as there were comparatively no older horses to contend with them, and the best three years old rarely run at that
races of this description. Of two years old we have had the usual abundance, and though it might be difficult at present to name many stars, there are some highly-promising horses coming on, of which the men of the south--mirabile dictu-appear once again to have the advantage. As every part and party should have a turn, I hope for a season or two they may keep it.
SKETCHES FROM A SPORTSMAN'S PORTFOLIO.
BY THE SPORTSMAN.
NO. I.—A BOAR HUNT, ECT., IN THE MORVAN.
In November, 184-, while at Montjeu, the ancestral chateau of Count Talleyrand-not the Talieyrand, but a namesake-it was agreed by a party of sportsmen, of whom I formed one, that on the eighth day following we would all meet at Fours, in the Morvan, for a regular week's sport. The Morvan was formerly a province of the Nivernais, but is now divided between the departments of the Nièvre, the Yonne, the Côte d'or, and the Saone-et-Loire, each having their slice. It is a mountainous and broken country, with vast and sombre forests; rapid torrents; stagnant pools, surrounded by lofty hills, covered with furze; silent valleys; noisy covers; and abandoned castles, looking like eagles eyries, whence the birds have flown. Here it was we were about to hunt, however-and a first-rate place it was, let me tell you.
An accidental delay occasioned Count Beaussancourt, the Baron de Saint-Pierre, and myself, who had agreed to proceed to the rendezvous together, to be twenty-four hours behind our time, which caused us to lose the first hunt. This was the more unfortunate as, while changing horses at the poste before arriving at Fours, we heard a commis-voyageur give a inost fearful account of the said sport. According to him a wild boar, weighing five hundred pounds, had been started, which had killed forty dogs previous to giving in, a course of proceeding which it could not be pursuaded to undertake until it had received a furious poke with the hunting knife from the Prince de Talleyrand!
"What!" exclaimed one of the by-standers, "does the old diplomatist still hunt?"
"Certainly," replied the commercial traveller, with gravity; "I saw the whole party on leaving Fours, and none rode his horse like that eminent personage. He really does look quite young for his age."
The commis-voyageur had heard that there was a Count Talleyrand among the noble hunters, and, to give effect and importance to his narration, had somewhat embellished his simple store of facts.
Though in November, the evening was magnificent. A thick dew, which froze upon the moon-lit surface of the meadows, caused them to sparkle as if covered with a net-work of pearls. The mountains, between which wound the road, stood out in bold relief against the sky, awakening deep and serious thoughts, which strangely blended with our natural, careless joy. Sometimes our coach rolled with noise over broken stones, washed bare by the late rain; sometimes over a
thick layer of damp and faded leaves, first victims of the autumnal winds. At times we walked for half an hour without meeting a living creature, and then we hurried through villages animated by the rural sounds of evening-the clear bell in the stable-the song of young girls round their fire-the creaking car in some hollow road-the neighing of horses. We had just climbed a hill, and were preparing to descend it, when the merry notes of a horn smote on our ears. We answered by a huntsman's cry, our postilion chorussed with his whip, and we entered Fours amid the acclamations of our companions; from whom we learnt that a boar had been killed, weighing some two hundred pounds less than five, and after killing only three dogs instead of forty.
I pass over the events of the evening, and descend at early morn into the wide and only street of Fours, which presented the most animated of scenes. The sportsmen in frocks faced with black, exposing scarlet cloth waistcoats, were hurrying from their different lodgings to the head inn, where breakfast was laid out; grooms walked the elegant, and vigorous horses; the valets des chiens kept under by dint of many a stroke of the whip their anxious dogs; while the dulcineas of the place, with their great red arms akimbo, looked admiringly on. At nine we were en marche. Forty minutes later we were at the cross roads, called the Croix Rouge, and here we awaited the report of the huntsmen, who had started at early dawn. A fire of bushes was made, cigars were lit, and impatient looks were cast along the vistas of the forest. Presently an object was seen advancing along one of the alleys. All eyes took that direction, and a host of voices exclaimed" Racot!"
Racot was the piqueur of the Marquis of M'Mahon; an extraordinary man, if ever there was one, with the ardent impetuosity of youth, the prudence of riper age, and the experience which comes only in the decline of life. Racot advanced; his manner was grave and modest, his physiognomy calm and impenetrable; he threw the cord of his hound to one of his subordinates, received in exchange a pain blanc and a piece of cold meat, and took his breakfast in cold disregard of our anxious countenances.
"I fear his news is bad news," said I to Count Alexandre de Vitry.
"Not at all; I know the man, and answer for him. for a rough ride."
"Gentlemen, to horse!" said Racot, pulling on his riding boots. We started, and presently I advanced to Racot, and, as he and I were tolerable good friends, questioned him as to the day's work.
"I think," said he, "I have traced a fellow that will give us work. But silence, we are near my hunting tracks." In ten minutes more a boar was started; I saw him cross a field, dash over a fence and through a river, and I reckoned with Racot that a day's work was before us. Each followed the way that pleased him best; I stuck to Alexandre de Vitry, who knew the country. I shall not weary my reader, who perhaps has not the sacra fames so strong in him as I have, with every minute particular; first, however, he hid; and then, finding this vain, would have driven off the dogs- no easy
matter, however, when he had five-and-forty Anglo-French rascals at his heels, combining Britannic tenacity with Gallic impetuosity; at length, after three baffling hours, the animal made up its mind, and left its cover.
Then, in truth, it was a gallant spectacle to see the hunters, before scattered through the forest, uniting on the edge of the wood, and darting in pursuit of the tired but still intrepid boar. The music of the dogs, the cries of the huntsmen, the re-echoed flourishes, the ringing of the horses' hoofs on the stony plain or rocky hill, formed a delicious concert. Each instant the scene changed with the site, and new incidents varied our pleasurable emotions. I could not, if I would, recount the hedges that were leaped, the ravines that were crossed, the villages through which we dashed, amid the acclamations of the populace. The boar, despising all or seeing nothing, entered the farmfarms, wallowed in the water-tanks, upset the women, and still went ahead, without either gaining or losing ground.
I was still beside Alexander de Vitry, and we were crossing together a low and damp meadow, a little apart from the other hunters, when my companion cried-" Take care of the morte!"
I cast my eyes around some steps before me, and in the midst of certain little ponds I perceived a plot where the sward was finer and greener than elsewhere. Making sure this was not the place, I guided my horse in its direction. Scarce had Rob Roy reached the spot, when I felt him sink under me; and I found myself on foot, standing beside my horse, and penetrating each instant below the surface. I was in the morte. Roars of laughter were heard, and then the whole party dashed by, with the true egoistical indifference of sportsmen. Rob Roy meantime had floundered out, while I sank deeper and deeper. Presently the idea struck me of throwing myself forward and lying horizontally, when I should no longer be like a nail in a glue-pot. I made the attempt-it succeeded-and, crawling on my hands and knees, in five minutes was on horseback. While I listened to discover the direction taken by the hunt, I looked upon the treacherous morte to seek traces of my mishap: there were none, all had disappeared, and the sward was as green and fresh as ever, whilst I and Rob Roy were plastered with mud. In vain I listened for any sound to guide my steps, and was preparing to dismount, and endeavour, Indian like, to trace their footsteps, when I heard the trotting of a horse behind. I turned, in the expectation of greeting some good fat curé, when, to my astonishment, I beheld my friend J—— P― advancing, as usual, cool as a cucumber, and munching a piece of chocolate. His Pegasus had not turned a hair; not a spot of mud soiled his boots.
"You have been in a bog," said he, quietly.
"Yes; but that's not the worst of it-I have lost the hunt."
"But you have found me, which is absolutely the same thing, for I know where it is."
"Come, then, clap your spurs into your beast, and away!"
"Tut, tut! man; one would imagine you were on a friend's horse Mine belongs to me, and I always husband him. Follow me, and don't be uneasy."