« 上一页继续 »
“ Uncommon dark, Sir.”
By Jove, that's lucky; we shall go to Crick now, I do believe; tell George that I'll ride Lady Gay to cover.”
The spirits of the whole party had risen at the butler's information there was a large party in the house, and I was to have joined them at breakfast, as the house lay on my road to the meet.
“Well, good night,” said I at the door, about 11 o'clock, as I stepped out of a puddle into my vehiculum.
“Good night, I shall see you to-morrow;” and away I went, through the
very thickest fog I ever was out in. After trying a gate-post or two, and taking a wrong turning, I reached home, and a large splash on the patent leather, as I sat down by the kitchen fire to finish with a cigar, consoled me for the cold and comfortless ride I had had.
There were more heads than one put themselves upon the pillow that evening, in the full and certain expectation of a hunting morning. Shortsighted mortals ! the earliest intelligence of something odd, was an apparently thick mist, which upon nearer inspection proved to be one of the heaviest falls of snow known for some seasons. The country was covered with a glittering counterpane of some inches, and it froze as it fell
. It persevered for two whole days, and then came a regular oldfashioned Christmas day ; a fashion I would rather not sec repeated as long as I've a horse in my stable. This last month's sport is thus easily summed up: two days—one good, the other bad. Lord Southampton has, I hear, had good sport up to the frost; but what he has done since I cannot tell. As to wishing any one here a happy new year, it never enters my head : the only men who can really appreciate the compliments of the season must be the dealers.
And now you want to know my opinion about quarters ; what do I think about L-m-ngt-n? I never think anything at all about it ; and if I did, it would not be favourable to your project of sojourning there. You hate noise and crowds and gaiety, after hunting—you detest patent leathers and lemon-coloured kids, on the non-hunting days-you don't want to make yourself sick in a pump-room in the morning, or in a ballroom at night. You are no longer a thin, gentlemanly-looking, fairhaired, blue-eyed youngster; but a round, sturdy-looking, rather grizzlyhaired fellow. You are not a sporting man, but a sportsman ; so L-m-gt-n is no place for you. What do you think of a very long street, with a fancy-bridge at one end, and a place like a methodist chapel at the other—a broad trottoir polished by fat old women and poodles, and shops with Regent-street names hanging over them. At four o'clock most of the real business of the “sporting gents” who put up there really begins : by that time the High-street fills; up they come quite in time for the daylight, and a saunter in their “pinks," before dressing for dinner. At dinner you hear the run—at least you ought to, but you don't, because no two agree who had the best of it; they should know something of it too, for they all followed one another over the same gap, or through the same gate, ten to one. Three hundred were out, thirty meant to ride, and ten knew how to do it. Then you get the odds on the next steeple chase, or the grand military ; and then
INTERCEPTED CORRESPONDENCE FROM NORTHAMPTONSHIRE.
you get too much claret, and are carried off by the waiter for trying to prevent two very young gentlemen from jumping their horses over the dinner-table, and thence out of the first-floor window. Oh! my good fellow, it would never suit you nor me, nor any middle-aged rational man : there are middle-aged men there for the hunting season, but whether they are rational or not is another matter.
You know Augustus Fitzfaddle; well, he's a L-m-gt-n man. You know all about him; if not, I'll tell you, because he's one of a species. Augustus is an honourable, youngest son of an Irish nobleman. He is tall, light-haired, gentlemanly, and good-looking—at least in the eyes of men, for he has much too little intellect in his face for any woman to make the mistake. He is four-and-twenty, and this is his fourth season, as old Tilbury's books would show. His actual income is £700 per annum : his nominal nobody knows. All this he wisely keeps for pocket money : everything else excepting his washing he owes for. In the way of a stud he is moderate-only three. Melton he would have preferred, only he knows it is hopeless; he therefore solaces himself with L-m-gt--n.
“James, what sort of a morning is it?" says the Hon. Augustus to his servant, as he brings him his hot-wator.
“ Hard frost, Sir.”
“Never mind, you may bring my leathers, and I'll see whether it's possible.”
About 11 o'clock out he sallies in the most correct of costumes, slipping and sliding down the street ; before he gets out of it, he meets a sturdy vulgarian, a truth-loving rascal, who despises Fitzfaddle & Co., and addresses him with
“Why, you don't mean to say your going out hunting?"
goes. Now, if real ardour had so far misled Augustus as to bring him out, he would probably have continued to slide to the meet; but as his object was accomplished by exhibiting himself. he wisely turned back ; and having skated home again on four legs, he felt himself privileged to wear his hunting costume in the coffee-room of the Regent, and elsewhere, for the rest of the day.
He would'nt suit you as a companion, would he? “No! but perhaps the middle-aged men you spoke of are more rational than you will allow. ” Jack Trumpington was a young man thirty years ago. He was then in a dragoon regiment, with £800 & year, and one of the best-looking men in town. Tall, well-made, dark, black whiskers, and an unexceptionable dresser. What was £800 a year?-a mere milk-score; as a lady told him to whom he complained of having spent it on her. Years tell a tale, and dissipation a sad story. The fascinating Jack Trumpington got stouter, and then he got greyer, and now he wears a wig. London was not to him what it had been, so he became a L--m-gt-n man : there are billiard tables there, and Jack plays a good game, especially pool : there are very young men there, and they give the odds, and Jack is not behind the scenes at the corner for nothing. It is right to live anywhere with an ostensible motive, so he takes a couple of weight carriers for the season ; but the frost has not broken his heart, nor will he care if it lasts till the beginning of March.
These are but two of two different sets, I could give you twenty more. Some with purses so long that they don't know what to do with their money ; others with purses so short that they don't know what to do without it. There are some of many colours, but none that would do for you or me.
I can only repeat my advice to you: come to the Pytchley ; go to Weedon, for instance--good stabling and plenty, and excellent personal accommodation at no great expense—on a rail ; so that you may go to cover into Leicestershire or Buckinghamshire at an hour's notice, without a hack-close to Lord Southampton, and near the best meets of the Pytchley ; 8 miles from Northampton, and 4 from the lovely grass country round Daventry. Come directly the frost breaks, and tell me who, out of so many good ones, is the best man in Northamptonshire. We are going to have a Pytchley Hunt picture, and you may be in time to be put in it.
Yours ever faithfully, January 2, 1847,
A DAY IN ALBANIA.
BY AN OFFICER IN THE QUEEN'S BAYS.
It was in the autumn of the year 184—, that I sailed from the harbour at Cowes, in the R. Y. S. schooner 0. -, of 130 tons, one of a party of three, including her owner (an old and valued friend, in whose company I have pulled many a trigger, and thrown many a fly, in regions far from the spot where I am now writing); bound on an expedition chiefly against a race which, until latterly, have generally been permitted to pass their lives undisturbed : I allude to the woodcocks on the continent of Greece; I say latterly, as some short time since, a party in another yacht, also belonging to the R. Y. S., committed havoc amongst them, such as they never dreamt of in their wildest “flights,” and whose report in great measure contributed to urge us on a similar undertaking.
After various adventures, which I shall now pass over, including a few days' snipe shooting in the marshes at Syracuse, which, owing unfortunately to continued drought for some months previous, turned out a failure, or nearly so, we reached the port of Zante; when, after manifold inquiries as to the various places where we were most likely to be successful, Petala, a small harbour on the coast of Albania, was fixed upon as the opening scene of our drama. Every one, however, seemed to agree in informing us that, in consequence of the mildness of the season, but few flights of cocks had hitherto made their appearance, which the snowy aspect of the mountains in
the Morea seemed somewhat to belie; though, indeed, it proved an unusually mild winter throughout Greece, the extreme beauty of the weather amply making up, in most places, for a rather smaller destruction of game than had been anticipated.
A slight breeze having sprung up, we stood out of the harbour, and entered the bay of Petala early the following morning, under a sky guiltless of a cloud. Of course it was not long before we assenbled upon deck, to determine the mode in which the day should be employed. On one side of us was to be seen a lagoon, perfectly covered with every variety of wild fowl, intermixed with gigantic pelicaris and a few white storks; on another were numberless small inlets, where the wild ducks were quietly enjoying their otium cum dignitate, basking in the sun with their heads under their wings; astern of us lay a most tempting looking snipc-marsh, whilst a-head of the vessel extended a tract of country doited with thickets, small covers and ravines, where, if woodcocks were in the country at all, they must have taken up their abode. After manifold arguments it was
at last carried that the latter should be the first day's pursuit, though a good deal was said, and not without reason, on the sport to be had with the countless wild fowl. cordingly landed on the bank of a river that empties itself into the sea, near the mouth of the harbour. We sallied forth from the “gig," followed by a tribe of dogs, more to be valued for their numbers than for much else, if I except the retrievers (to which all honour and respect be paid where it is due). We had picked up the majority of the spaniels in a great hurry in London, and were consequently not to be depended on, as the issue proved. Our first attack was upon the end of the forementioned' snipe-marsh, which, for some reason I cannot now account for, we drew blank, though finer ground for that species of game I never remember to
In the course of my beat, by the way, I had to pass through the midst of a herd of buffaloes, the appearance of whom, I am free to confess, I did not at first much approve of, as with their gigantic horns, and very peculiar way of throwing the head back, whilst every eye is steadily fixed on the intruder, they present to a stranger a somewhat formidable aspect: I found afterwards, bow. ever, than any danger to be apprehended existed in my own mind only, as in reality they are the tamest and quietest of animals; their milk forming one of the chief means of sustenance amongst the few inhabitants that are to be met with ; in fact, the ordinary cattle in Greece—which are very small, and strongly resembling those bred in the highlands of Scotland—are far more prone to force themselves upon one's acquaintance; one of my fellow-sportsmen having, on a former occasion, been under the necessity of shooting one through the head to save his own life.
We reached at last a small thicket; and, indeed, no place I ever beheld more fully comes under that denomination, than those in this part of Albania; as, independent of the closeness of the cover, the trees are bound to one another by a species of woodbine, which renders it almost an impossibility for any human being to penetrate far into it, to say nothing of a kind of thorns, bearing a stronger resemblance to fish-hooks than to any other known thing;
which, even if he should succeed in forcing his way in, show their sense of the compliment by making such efforts to retain him, that it is only by leaving part of his garments in their embrace that, Joseph-like, he can make his escape from their clutches, some few honouring him with their company for the remainder of the day at the least. Our spaniels, however, dashed gallantly in, and, at the first rush, much to our delight, up sprung a leash of cocks, thus affording us good grounds for supposing that our toil would not prove in vain; and, indeed, I may be permitted to say that our hopes were not disappointed, as, though the cover was not many hundred yards in extent, we brought to bag seven couple of woodcocks, the chief difficulty being in getting the birds when killed, as, in the event of one falling in the woods, the interlacing of the branches was such as very often to leave the bird suspended in mid-air, far out of the reach of the "retrievers, who, poor beasts, frequently incurred blame for what they could find no remedy for. Our course then lay over an extensive plain, interspersed with bushes and reeds, making splendid holding ground for any description of game. Here we met with a good sprinkling of birds; when, just as I was in the act of loading after a successful double shot at quail, I was startled by a violent crashing of the bushes close to me, which I imagined at first to be my old faithful black Newfoundland, but, to my utter astonishment, at a distance of about twenty yards, out rushed an immense wild boar, who testified by his violent grunting his extreme displeasure at our invasion of his domains, but, much to my satisfaction, did not honour me with more than a passing look, but galloped off at his best pace. It was forthwith resolved amongst us to drop a ball into cach of the left barrels, for the chance of a repetition of a similar occurrence; and il turned out fortunate that we did so, as, about a couple of hours afterwards, whilst engaged in beating a well-wooded ravine, just as we had reached the end of it, and whilst T- and myself were arranging our next movements, my former friend, or at all events a very near relation, judging from the strong family likeness, suddenly made his appearance at the extremity of a small glade, but a few paces distant from the spot where we were then standing, the foam flying from bis tushes, and pursued by every dog in our possession, both large and small, all giving tongue to the best of their
ability. I fired instantly, but apparently without effect, as, with the exception of a trifling check, his pace continued unabated. The report of T's gun followed without loss of time, when, to our infinite delight, the boar rolled over and over on the green-sward, and was, of course, immediately run into by the whole of his canine adversaries; then, indeed, the row may be said to have begun, as, though his hind quarters seemed to be completely paralyzed, he amply made up for the deficiency by the vigour with which he exerted those powers over which he still possessed controul, turning round and round with a velocity truly surprising, and upsetting the dogs in every direction; the whole affair being accompanied by a chorus of grunting, squeaking, barking, and howling, in every variety of key. We were naturally apprehensive that some serious damage would ensuc before we could reach the spot (having to get over the trunk of a fallen birch-tree); the