图书图片
PDF
ePub

lanes surrounding them are belly deep in many places. Notwithstanding this, runs are sometimes had in these parts." With this opinion I cordially accord : Surrey is a miraculous place for mud; but I never had an idea of what sort of thing a ride in a scavenger's cart was, till I had a taste of West Sussex. Nimrod calls it an“ ungentlemanlike country:” he need not have been quite so nice in his vocabulary.

About the period of my first visit to Mr. Haigh and the Surrey, the establishment, by the indignation of Diana, had been selected as the piece de resistance of all the caricaturists in the sporting world : to say nothing of its being the bull's-eye for all the invective ever launched against any contrivance in woodcraft. Thither then, as I went, I couldn't help thinking of the blessing said to be in store for those that expect nothing. I think the place of meeting was Godstone Green, a pretty rural spot ; but the mise en scene of the tableau did not please me. The huntsman, Tom Hill, was not a graceful figure; and the first whip was a "wopper,” and no mistake. These big fel. lows rode (of course) big horses, in racing snaflles, with reins not thicker than pack-thread, which had the oddest effect possible. Mr. Haigh, the master, was at the time in his seventy-nınth year, riding only eight stone--and somehow the whole thing was as it were reversed; to be in keeping, the master ought to have changed places with the man. But the “character”of the affair did not end there : in my notes of that morning's details I find it thus written :-

“Mr. Haigh rode an extraordinary, powerful, strapping, bay horse, fit to carry him had he been four times as weighty as he was--and here all the murder about the snaffles was out-this great animal having only an etherial bit between his jaws. That veteran sportsman it seems has two hobbies and where is the man who has less ?a great leaning towards visionary snaffles, and the most unmitigated abhorrence of tobacco. King James himself had not a more rooted antipathy to the infernal mandungus.' He expresses his conviction that the puff of a cigar is fatal to scent, and he takes no roundabout method of delivering that opinion to any of the uninitiated that he finds at a cover side with a weed in his face. During the day a man got into trouble at a fence, when the old gentleman rubbed his hands with great glee, and seemed transported with satisfaction. I inquired the reason of my next neighbour, at the moment; who replied, “Oh! he caught that man smoking with the hounds last year, and he'll never forgive him to the hour of his death!'”

My reminiscences of the Old Surrey continue in this wiseI was surprised at the gloss these hounds contrived to carry, considering the mud-berths they live half the winter in; and their hill country is out of the frying-pan into the fire, for such a school of spontaneous anatomy, I'defy the whole earth to produce. Mr. Haigh told me he had just lost a valuable mare from a wound of a flint in the pastern, which made it necessary to destroy her on the spot. I don't set this down as a matter of record for its singularity, my wonder being how the devil horses ridden over these downs have a leg at all left at Christmas. .. A leash of foxes had been viewed away from Chicken Wood; for Valentine's-day being just passed, the genial influences had drawn them towards their leafy cover. One had been seen to cross the hills for a coppice behind the mill; on the drag of this Giovani we hit, but it was as cold as a dead man's nose, so we once more launched into a woody

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]

island circled by a sea of clauber, passing muster for a cover. My lower habiliments had by this time surrendered all claims to distinction; and if I had been offered all Lombard-street for it, I could not have pointed out where my breeches ended and my boots began. All at once a dozen men from as many different quarters sang out'taliyho,' to the accompaniment of a storm of hail and rain, which, while it helped to soften the crust of the dirt-pie, turned all the blood in the body into ive. It looked, however, like business; so, thrusting my gloves into my pocket, I spat upon my hands, and girt up my loins like a gentleman. Presently pug bolted, and for a couple of hours or so we ran him up and down one lane, over head and ears and everything in filth-it must have been the same, for two such passages for man and beast never existed in hell or Connaught. We finished after dark, without a kill; but I can aver, of my own knowledge, that had it lasted a very little longer, there would have been a death to record.”

Kent was never classed among the metropolitan counties; and Essex, although liberally supplied with hounds, is no longer in the category. The glories of the home country--at best never particularly brilliant-are fast on the wane, just at the time we had learnt to be indifferent about it. Mr. Grantley Berkeley used to run into his venison in Russell-square: now the fashion is to wait till after it's cooked, for such achievements in that part of the world. The royal hounds made a point of finishing their runs over the Harrow country at the top of Portland-place—as late as the season before last.... It was time we changed the triumphal whoo-whoop procal o procal from the echoes of the New Road, and the ears of those who promenade Regentstreet. All things are good or bad according to circumstances. The wife of parson Adams, the best model of a Christian divine yet attempted by the pen, used to tell her husband it was wicked to talk of religion out of church. To use a common expression, London has now gone out of town: it is not meet it should encounter a pack of hounds on its journey. Anon there will be a close of the metropolitan hunting session-for ever and for aye. This can be a cause Tieither of regret or inconvenience, since the steam-roads have brought the Quorn, the Belvoir, and the Pytchley to our stable-doors. In return, however, for these good things, let men remember gratitudelet them be considerate anů forbearing in their treatment of those blessings of the virgin goddess : let it never be said profanely of those who avail themselves of the green fields of Northampton, and the noble sport of the squire of Sulby

" The pleasure they delight in physics Payne."

[graphic]
[graphic]

THE OTTER.

ENGRAVED BY J. SCOTT, FROM A PAINTING BY E. B. SPALDING.

The march of civilization, population, cultivation, and a few more "nation” advantages of that sort, has given to many of our sports a somewhat anomalous and contradictory character. The stag for example, as the title of the companion plate shows, is hunted to be rescued rather than destroyed; and though, to be sure, the fox is condemned to die the death of the chased, still he is preserved for that very purpose. To the execution by the trigger, too, the term “ preserve” becomes yet more applicable; while the provision of stout and strong hares for the gaze-hound, is made on much the same sys. tem of keeping and killing for exclusive customers. In fact, to almost every bird or beast one remove above vermin, a certain code of fairplay law is allowed; and so if it be considered a fine feat to bag he, she, or it, by some amount of skill in hunting, shooting, or coursing, care is taken that the species suffer by few other means. Thus the whirring pheasant," who rises mid-day at the beck and for the sport of my lord of the manor, has his remedy against the assassin-like attack of the poacher. Madam puss, who stretches her long legs and points her long ears in her two-to-one scurry for life and the cup, finds an equally equitable claim against wires and snares: and bold reynard, the fox, who fights it out“ openly” with hounds, asserts a glorious freedom from all the machinations of traps, drugs, and shots.

To every rule there is generally an exception, and the grand one here we take to be the case of our epicurian acquaintance" the otter." We have otter hounds and otter hunting, and the pursuit classed amongst the acknowledged sports of this country; and yet who ever heard of an otter preserver?' Here our sportsman really does appear to sally forth fully impressed with the old-fashioned notion that he will taste blood if possible, because it will be to the good of his district to have such a despoiler destroyed. It is nearly as much a matter of necessity as of inclination, and so any one particular agency in effecting the end is scarcely ever very strictly adhered to. We cannot imagine that in the most barbarous or woodland of countries, worthy neighbour, Mr. Snapshot, of Powder'em Hall,” would paragraph himself as “having, on the morning of Monday last, shot on the side of Beacham Wood one of the finest dog.foxes ever seen.” We don't believe that the dullest of country papers would for a moment hazard such an insertion ; and yet only mark the difference between fox-hunting and otter-hunting. It was only the last month of all months that we immortalized one of the wags of Windsor by transplanting a county column of how his triggership had knocked over one of the very largest otters ever seen in the Thames. Every man's hand is against him, that's a fact. If he happen to be out when the otter hounds are out, they hunt him; if when the duck-shooters are abroad, they shoot him; and if when his especial opposition house is at work, they fish him-fix him with a Limerick hook and a wonder fly, and get the ground-work of a story that staggers the compositors as they set it up-or may be haul him out wholesale in a net spread for salmon and such small fishes.

In sober seriousness, his majesty King Otter sadly wants discretion, and takes to tasting and picking when a bare subsistence should be the most he ought to expect. Goes in for as fine a tithe of the salmon as that crack hand, the curate himself; and so produces a scarcity that works on to a sequitur, in his becoming far more than proportionately scarce himself. Otters, indeed, are now rarities in most quarters, and so have we the greater reason for giving the full length portrait of the gentleman-“one of those amphiberous animals," who, as his present position would seem to denoie, “can't live in the water, and dies upon land.”

Our

« 上一页继续 »