Page images
PDF
EPUB

The

be

aware

ful but now gloomy-looking edifice, on my road to the kennels, I could hardly forbear giving one sigh for the old and well-remembered glories of those times when upwards of twenty hunters stood in the stables of this well-conducted hostelry alone. The road to the Heythrop kennels is by a by-lane, or rather across fields, inconveniently intersected by some of the heaviest cleft ash-gates I ever had the pleasure of opening, and which came rather thicker than was agreeable to a man driving a fidgetty horse, and upon whose good temper he might be in some way dependent for a safe passage through the disagreeable barrier. latter portion of the drive, after you enter the old Park, is exceedingly agreeable ; and one of the best places in the world for the purpose of walking out a pack of fox-hounds. The kennels are situated upon a bank at the southern side of the park, where they are well supplied with water ; in fact, rather too abundantly, as the spring, by which the reservoirs were filled, was supposed to cause a dampness and rheumatism; which has been, I am happy to say, effectually removed by merely making a new channel for the water into the build. ing, so that it now supplies the courts of the kennel without passing in any way near to any of the lodging-rooms. The huntsman, and, in fact, all the servants connected with the Heythrop hounds, reside in the two wings of the old mansion, about a quarter of a mile from the kennel ; the centre of which many of my readers may was burnt to the ground some sixteen years ago, through the carelessness of a servant when airing the beds previous to the arrival of the late Duke of Beaufort, who at that time lived there during the hunting season, hunting the Badmington and Heythrop countries alternate months. The aspect of the ruin is most melancholy, though replete with grandeur ; and as we gazed on the fine old Corinthian colunins, as the howling tempest chaunted its Æolian anthem through the once hospitable though now deserted and mouldering galleries of Heythrop House, I could hardly help repeating the well-known and beautiful lines of the Swan of Avon, so truly-descriptive of the littleness, after all, of the mighty grandeur of man's terrestrial existence :

“ The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,” &c. I found my old friend Jem Hills with his whip in his hand, all ready for feeding, ** nine fifteen, as they term it at the terminus of the Smashington Junction Railway. However, as he knew I was about to pay him a visit, he had waited ten minutes for me, having been delayed nearly that time by having to descend from my trap to open the eight or ten gates of which I before made mention. He drew all the hounds for me, and then he walked out and fed. He never walks out after feeding, as most huntsmen do, but puts 'em over into a strawyard for a little while, and moves 'em out in about an hour-and-a-half's time. And I think he is right, as we all know some delicate hounds are apt to throw off part of their meat directly after feeding, if moved about in too hurried a manner. Lord Redesdale's are certainly a fine pack of hounds, but not exactly the stamp I admire as a model ; I like them long and low, with all their points in that form which the best judges of hounds have long pronounced to be proper. However, Jem lills says he is convinced that the description of hound which he has so long tried w

produce is more able to race over their flying country, and top the numerous stone walls which divide the fields in a great part of Oxfordshire, especially on the Gloucestershire side. There is a great variety of blood in the kennel : a little of the Beaufort ; but that is wearing out, more the pity ; the Duke of Rutland's, Mr. Drake's, and the Yarborough, nine couples and a half, which he drew out and showed me, all being of one strain, viz., the Yarborough Plunder; and although I could recognize the old sorts, they were a little remodelled by Jem's new taste. Nevertheless, he says no sort in the world can be stouter in chace than they are ; and that I always said myself. I had a long talk with Jem Hills about the kennel lameness or rheumatism ; and he, I found, had got Charles Davis's recipe, of which I spoke before, and declared to me that it was the finest thing in the world for hounds that were stiff—in fact, a perfect cure—but admitted that real kennel lameness was caused by the situation alone of the building, and that when a pack of hounds was thoroughly attacked by that dreadful curse on dog-flesh, nothing but a removal to a more healthy locality could in any way effect a cure. I spent, to me, a very agreeable four-hours' talking about hunting matters ; and I really think I could have stopped till now, had I not had an engagement which obliged meto make the best of my way to the classic city of Alma Mater. Amongst other matters, Jem Hills told me a long story about his hounds being hallooed to a dog when they were running almost into their fox, close to the town of Oxford; and the curious circumstances connected with this stupid and atrocious act must be 'some apology for my relating it here. At the end of the season before last the hounds found a fox at Bladon Wood ; now this fox was not only well known to the farmer residing close to the cover, as a most remarkable animal with only half a brush, but also as having his cars greatly disfigured either by the knife of some cruel brute who had caught him and afterwards slit them, and then docked him and put him down again ; but the huntsman himself viewed him away, and could plainly discern that he was disfigured in the manner I have described. Just as the hounds were about to finish him, not being more than a couple of fields a-head, Jack Goddard, the whipper-in, viewed him, and as the fox had made a turn towards him, rode by his side for some distance; and not much liking his appearance, never having seen "bold Reynolds" with such a masqueradish-looking countenance before, he turned back towards the hounds, and stopped them, saying to the huntsman, “ Master, it's not one of our country foxes.At this moment some foot-people hallooed a red dog which was running in a different direction, to the left of the line taken by the fox, and the hounds broke away, flashed on him a little, but were instantly stopped. This dog was soon after caught in a hovel, and proved to be a red terrier bitch, so near her time that she whelped within a fortnight. There are always plenty of “d-d good natured fellows" in every hunt, formed chiefly by the tale-bearing, would-be sportsman of the chief market-town in the neighbourhood ; and this was the case here. There were persons who declared that the hounds had run a dog the whole distance ; but how could a dog of that size, more especially a bitch heavy in whelp, stand such a fast thing as these hounds had first across the country towards Islip, and then from that point to Oxford, a distance of ten or eleven miles? It needs no comment; it was impossible, and that's enough. Besides, the old cropped fox was seen by the farmer to return to his quarters in the evening, and was repeatedly seen since in the same place. I can well imagine even so good a hand as Jack Goddard is, being staggered at the appearance of the fox when he rode by his side ; for I very well recollect a circumstance, though not exactly like this case, very similar to it, happening in Yorkshire with the Holderness hounds, about seven years ago. The hounds brought a fox into Tibthorpe plantations after å run, and were killing him, when just after entering the cover they changed for an animal which came before them right up the middle ride, and was killed close to where I was then standing ; now, if I had been forced to swear when I first viewed him whether it was a fox or not, I would much rather have sworn that it was not a fox, for I really believed at the time that it was a racoon or some such devil. But after all, it was a real Yorkshireman, with his ears and brush paired off. The master of the hounds, who hunted them himself, quickly disposed of him, and then lifted his hounds on to his hunted fox, and then killed him, after a one short ring round the cover.

Jem Hills is too old a soldier to let his pack run a dog two minutes without his finding them out; and although his system of lifting and getting forwards may not be to the taste of all of us, there are few better chase-huntsmen in England than he is. The Heythrop country is a most delicate scenting country; the scent soon fleets away, and, excepting during very wet seasons, nine foxes out of ten would escape, the hounds being beaten and out-run by their fox for want of scent to kill him if the“ tow lowsystem of some of the old school were invariably adhered to. One extraordinary instance of the difference of scent existing on the same day, in two countries not above a dozen miles apart, may be mentioned, when the Warwickshire hounds had a brilliant fifty-five minutes, and killed their first fox from Tysoe Spiney, and afterwards hunted another for an hour and a-half with a good fair scent, going at times fast, on the very day that the Heythrop were at Kiddington Gate, and were hardly able to walk after their fox during a great portion of the morning, an account of which day's sport I have given above. The Heythrop hounds are a most agreeable pack to hunt with, for those sportsmen who prefer the quiet amusement of the chace in the provincials, to the more arduous and expensive business of steering a large stud of high-priced horses in Leicestershire or the Pytchley country. The noble owner of the pack is a most affable and popular master of hounds. The huntsman is a cheery and indefatigable sportsman, and shows far more than an average number of first-rate runs in the course of a season ; Jack Goddard, the first whipper-in, is a most obliging and respectful attendant, a first-rate horseman, and for a flying pack of hounds he has quite enough of the ruffian ; perhaps he has hardly voice enough for a deep woodland country, but where he is, he is always in his place, turns the hounds very quick, and can help to kill a crooked fox in the open as well as any whipper-in in England. These hounds had a most extraordinary and brilliant run on the day before Christmas-day, the season before last, from the well-known cover Tar Wood, which is a neutral cover between them and the Berkshire, now under the management of Mr. Moreland ; and I don't think I can do better than give a description of it in the very words of a sporting poet in that neighbourhood.

on

was

hat;

A Run FROM TAR Woon. Ile waited not, he was not found, Now, clam'rous the tainted No warning note from eager hound,

track But echo of the distant horn

Close follow the deluded pack ; From outskirts of the covert borne, Each hound impetuous stems the Where Jack*, the whip, in ambush tide, lay,

And shakes himself on t'other side; Proclaimed that he was gone But Jem, who view'd him, wide away.

awake Away! ere yet that blast To ev'ry dodge a fox can make, blown,

His wily tricks to circumvent The fox had o'er the meadow flown, Recalled them to their missing Away! away! his flight he took, scent Straight pointing for the Windrush Nor aid save that throughout the brook ;

day The miller, when he heard tlic pack, From huntsman or from whip had Stood tiptoe on his loaded sack ; they. He viewed the fox across the flat, Away! but with abated speed, And, needless signal, waved his O'er fallow brown, o'er verdant

mead, He saw him clear with bounding O'er soil deep furrowed with the heel

plough, The water that had washed his No child's-play is the struggle now; wheel

Now over paled park he bounds, Like phantom fox he seem'd to fly, A trespasseron Milward's grounds; With speed unearthly flitting by. To Lechlade now the pack he leads, The road that leads to Whitney Now close by Little Hemel speeds;

To Fairford thence he wended Ile travelled neither up nor down, straight, But straight away, like arrow sped Still struggling to the last with From clothyard bow, he shot ahead;

Tho' now the pack approaching Now Cokethorpe on his left he past, nigh, Now Ducklington behind him cast, He heard the death-note in the

cry Now by Bampton, passing Lew, They view him now! Now seem'd On by Clanfield quick he flew ; At Grafton first his course inclin’d, The very lightning of the chase. And Kelmscote now is left behind, The fox had reached the Southrop Where waters of the Isis lave

lane; The meadows with their classic IIe strove to cross, but strove in

vainO'er those meadows stealing on, The pack rollid o'er him in his Toward the bridge of good St. John, stride, Ile near'd the stream as if to swim, And onward struggling still — he Then tried a feint to puzzle Jemt

died. His footsteps in the margin sink This gallant fox, in Tar Wood found, And taint the sedges on the brink; Had cross'd full twenty miles of Then springing back, he seem'd to ground; say,

Had sought no shelter for his flight “ Those who like to cross it may.” In covert either left or right ; * Goddard.

+ Jem Hills, the huntsman.

town

fate ;

their pace

wave.

swung,

But nigh two hours the open kept, There, reckless of the pain, he As stout a fox as ever stept.

sighed That morning, in the saddle set, To think he might not onward ride: An hundred men at Tar Wood met; Though fallen from his pride of Though rumour says of that array place, Scarce ten lived fairly thro' the His heart was following still the dav.

chase ; Till mid-day's sun had made the He bade the huntsman to forbear ground

His proffer'd aid, nor tarry there Fit treading for the foot of hound, “Oh! heed me not, but ride away, Compelled their pastime to delay, The TarWood fox must die to-day.'' They whiled in chat an hour away: The rear pull’d up with one accord, How bitter over night the frost- Assiduous to assist a lord ; How many a joke without it lost. Some say their steeds were sorely Ah ! how shall I in song declare blownThe riders who were foremost there? Such idle falsehoods I disown. A fit excuse how shall I find

Valentia fell: nor he aloneFor ev'ry rider left behind ?

Here Jem in his career was thrown: It seem'd while riding Cokethorp by, His heels they in the breast-plate As though there were no fence to fly;

His head low down on earth it Though slash'd and sluic'd with hung, many a drain,

While Spangle* on a blackthorn Yet seemingly one open plain,

lay, And he who clears those ditches Like dew-drop quiv'ring on the wide

spray ; Must needs a goodly steed bestride. Soon man and horse regain'd their From Bampton to the river's feet, bounds

And, struggling up, Jem reach'd The race

on pasture

his seat ; grounds,

Poor Spangle's lustre worn away : Yet many a nag of blood and bone “ Thou laggard groom! why this Was heard to cross it with a groan; delay! For blackthorns stiff the fields di- Oh, Juliet !t where art thou ?vide,

where ? With watery ditch on either side. A thousand guineas for the mare!" By Lechlade's village fences rise With words more touching, grief Of ev'ry sort and ev'ry size ;

more true, And rotten bank and tott'ring wall Could Romeo her absence rue ? Were crumbled by the frequent fall. Those meadows by the Isis bound Some planted deep in corn-field Jem reach'd ere he his Juliet found; stand,

Well thence, with such a prompter's A fix'd incumbrance on the land ; aid, While others prove o'er post and rail Till Reynard's death, her part she The merits of the sliding scale.

play’d. Ah! much it grieves the muse to Fair Beatrice ! As I tell

But little sport that mare had seen; At Clanfield how Valentia fell ; Now, guided by the hand of Jack, He rode, they say,likeone bewitched, She never lost again the pack. Till headlong from the saddle Charlest, brought to sorrow in the

was

run

yet

ween

pitched ; * Jem Hills' horse. + The huntsman's second horse. The under whipper-in.

sun,

« PreviousContinue »