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Old Tom was a man of tolerably frugal and temperate habits, as he was never known to indulge in spirituous liquors; it was, however, a standing joke against him, that he was a great friend to the excise ;" for according to his usual allowance of four quarts of home-brewed malt per diem, he had in forty-six years (we commence at his tenth year) drank 33,580 quarts, or two hundred and thirty-three barrels, amounting to the small item of nearly seven hundred pounds, had it been brewers' beer.
I was now all impatience to hear about my hunter, but Tom was silent, not liking to elate or “knock me down ” too much as the case might be), with a description of the Warwickshire flyer.
“You'll find some jumping draughts, Master Ernest, in that corner cupboard, said the huntsman ; “I myself never taste any strong waters."
Opening the cupboard I found sundry bottles, which on tasting proved to be shrub, cherry and orange brandy.”
"Its time to be off now, Master Ernest, I see Jem's brought your mare.'
I ran out to the groom, who was leading a tall giraffe of an animal, that had evidently seen better days. “Warwickshire Lass” reminded me strongly of Burns' Rosinante “Jenny Gedes ;" "an auld ga'd gleyde o' a meere, wi' a stomack that wad hae digested tumbler-wheels, for she'd whip off five stimparts o' the best oits at a down sittin', and ne'er fash her thumb.” Of her breeding there could be no doubt; I was rather sceptical as to her soundness; and as for her beauty, I was compelled to content myself with the idea “ that handsome is as handsome does.” She was one of that class yeloped “a rum one to look at:" whether or not “ she was a good one to go” remained to be proved. Of her speed I had considerable doubt, albeit she was a decided speedycutter ; and as for her fencing, from the specimen she gave me at a small hurdle, she seemed to have as much idea of leaping as a clotheshorse.
In other respects she resembled her prototype Jenny, for when " ane her ring-banes and spavies, her crucks and cramps, were fairly soupld, she'd beat to, and aye the hindmost hour the tightest.”
I proceed to the chase. We soon found in Ufton Wood. “Yoicks! push him up !” cried Tom, in a tone" Ah,” as the song says, “there never was a voice more sweet or melodious ”-and the fox broke and would have gone away, had he not been headed by a gaping straw-yard savage, who “whistled as he went, for want of thought.” The boor cried “ Dang it, who'd ha thought it!" as he scared the wily animal back to the covert.
After some little time a gallant fox made for the open, in as good carnest as the most ardent lover of a good run could wish, giving a sharp burst to Long Itchinton, where a flock of sheep caused a check ; but in a few minutes he was viewed stealing away, when“ tallyho !'' was again heard, and the hounds ran breast high. He went straight towards Marton and Princethorpe.
“Now, Master Ernest, cried Tom, “mind you ride for the brush; my young-un's going like mad to-day, and you'll have some difficulty to beat him."
I pushed my hunter along ; the first obstacle was a flight of rails,
with a ditch on the further side. The gallant old huntsman took it at a swing: determined not to be outdone, and having my mettle up, I stuck my spurs in, and (with shame be it spoken) holding fast by the mane, went at it at an awful place ; the mare took the top bar with her knees, floundered, and defining a parabola in the air, I alighted in the ditch. To regain my legs and remount was the work of a second ; we came to the river from which Leamington takes its name ; like a second Lochinvar
“ I stay'd not for brake, I stay'd not for stone,
But swam the Leame river where ford there was none."
Somewhat damped in everything but courage, my next attempt was at a brook, full “ up to the brim," where, according to Terence O'Donnell's account, “as a matter of course I became a candidate for • Brooks,' and was admitted without opposition.” Here young Sewell passed me, having cleared the water without a mistake ; I saw triumph depicted in his countenance; so nothing daunted I remounted, and, thanks to a momentary check, regained my place in the first flight. It was a fine holding scent, the hounds were all together, carrying a fine head : short and sharp work was now expected.
« Pretty! capital !” shouted the old huntsman, as he saw his son and myself riding side by side.
We were now in a fine grass country, large inclosures, and terrific fences. Blood began to tell, the “ Warwickshire Lass" skimmed away like a swallow on the wing, while poor “ Black Bess” began to look a little distressed. “Give her a pull," cried the “Blazer ;" * if you take too much out of her now, you'll have nothing left for the finish.”
I followed this excellent advice, and held the gallant animal fast by the head.
“There's young Sewell's mare will soon cry bellows to mend,'” continued the young hard-riding paddy.
We now passed Willenhall, and were rapidly approaching the river Sow, “Look out, Ernest,” proceeded the “Blazer," " there's a stiffish park paling ; I'll try a weak place; give me time, and follow. Remember, lots of powther. Tally-ho! he'll never reach the plantation.”
I eased my mare, so as to give my proposed leader a clear field, who, cramming his spurs into his horse 's flanks, charged the paling ; fortunately for me it caine down with a crash, and left an opening of which I immediately availed myself.
The “ Blazer” and myself were now left alone with the hounds, and we were inwardly congratulating ourselves upon our places, when a noise met his practised ears which completely changed the current of our thoughts.
“ Some accident must have happened,” said the warm-hearted Irishman, “ or Tom Sewell and Jem (the first whipper-in), must have been up. I fancied I heard the sound of a heavy fall, and a cry to stop the hounds ; something serious has occurred."
We now both simultaneously stopped our horses, and trotting back to a spot about thirty or forty yards below where we had broke through the park paling, and which had been hid from us by a large clamp of forest trees, a scene presented itself that haunts my memory to the present day. On the ground, with liis head supported by two sympa. thizing friends, lay extended a youth, in a state of perfect unconsciousbess; an elderly man, whose white locks waved in the breeze, was on his knees, fanning with his velvet cap the apparently lifeless countevance; the first whipper-in, with lancet in hand, was waiting anxiously, but with patience, while his fellow-servant ripped open the sleeve of the prostrate object. The rest of the field, with the exception of those who had galloped off to Rugby, Coventry, and Warwick, for surgical assistance, were congregated in small parties, looking dismayed, and were evidently devoid of a hope. A horse, with stiffened limbs, was being removed by some labourers ; while two men, with a gate for a stretcher, were waiting to carry the lifeless corpse to a neighbouring cottage.
O'Donnell seeing at one glance that poor young Sewell had breathed his last, urged me to quit the melancholy scene, and accompany him to the Manor-house, there to break the sad tidings to his bereaved mother and sister.
As we were proceeding slowly and silently home, Farmer Dale overtook us, and described the accident as it occurred.
The unfortunate youth, finding “ Black Bess " a little distressed, had ridden her with such judgment, that she had quite recovered herself, and gathering her well together before he charged the park paling, would have got over it in perfect safety, had not a loose horse, who had thrown its rider at the last fence, galloped across the mare's track, causing her to swerve as she rose at the leap ; the gallant animal thus put out of her stride touched the fence with her knees, fell over it, and coming in contact with a huge elm tree that had been lately felled within the park, broke her own back, and rolling over her rider, deprived him of life. Such was the lamentable account given me of my early companion's unfortunate and premature death.
Tears, hot burning tears rolled down my cheek, as I listened to the tale of misery and woe. The painful task of informing a kind and warm-hearted mother of the sudden demise of an affectionate son, now devolved upon me ; and upon presenting myself before her, my heart palpitated so violently that I was unable to utter a single word.
" Why, what has happened, Master Ernest ?" inquired the mat ro "you have over-fatigued yourself with the run-a glass of orange wine and a cake will do you good.
" Thank you, no, no," I hastily replied, with bloodshot watery eyes.
“I hope you have got into no trouble ?" continued the childless mother. " I hear from Joe Starks that you had a burning scent ; I trust you killed your fox, for the sake of sport as well as for my ownmy hen-roost has suffered a good deal lately from these marauders.”
"Oh ! Mrs. Sewell,” I exclaimed, with an agonizing burst of grief ; " poor, poor Frank !”
*Frank ! you alarm me-has he had a fall ?-is he hurt !”. -"Alas, alas !" I replied, “and the consequences may be--are, I mourn to say--fatal."
Not a word escaped the mother, a deep sigh was alone heard-she remained mute and motionless. At this moment our heart-breaking conference was interrupted by the entrance of the wretched father : his look at once corroborated my statement. “Mary,” sobbed the afflicted parent, “ we have lost our son, the delight of our days, the hope of our declining hours, the boy who never gave us a moment's uncasiness"
here poor Sewell was so overcome with sorrow that he could not utter another word.
« The brave, brave boy !the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away,” proceeded Mrs. Sewell, in a voice scarcely audible; then burying her face in her hands, uttered an indistinct prayer. After a time the wretched mother for the first time found relief to her overcharged feelings in a flood of tears ; then taking that volume from the shelf which can alone comfort the mourner in the hour of distress, she turned to the severe trial of Abraham-she cried over the grief of the royal sufferer on the death of his beloved but rebellious Absalom-she dwelt on the temptations of the patient and holy Job. Religion now shed its influence over her mind —"a still small voice” whispered, “ Weep not !" “ Yet, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil : for thou art with me ; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” “To die is gain."
Leaving the disconsolate parents to indulge in their holy meditations, I took my leave, and retired to the privacy of my own room, where I soon found myself in a raging fever. Excitement and over-fatigue had mastered a weak frame, and for the next week I remained in a dangerous state ; youth, however, came to my aid, and in less than a fort. night I was pronounced to be in a state of convalescence ; during this brief period the remains of poor Frank Sewell had been consigned to the grave, amidst the lamentations of his friends.
Upon the morning of the funeral all labour was suspended, and the whole of the rural population of Atherley and the adjoining parish attended the body to the place of interment ; the gentry, too, came forward to pay their tribute of respect to humble yet departed worth ; and to judge of the feeling that was evinced by all classes upon the mournful occasion, à casual bystander would have imagined that some great national calamity had taken place, and not merely the death of a simple kind-hearted country youth.
The small village of Atherley is by no means devoid of interest : its rural appearance, its neatly white-washed houses, its comfortable inn, its festive maypole, its ivy-mantled towers, the gothic ornaments, the antique font, the curiously carved seat, and door-way still remaining, indicate that its foundation belongs to a very distant period. The churchyard too, where
“The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep,” has a very striking appearance, the dark foliage of the pine trees by which it is surrounded forms a fine contrast with the gayer verdure around ; while the venerable yews spread a still more solemn shade over the turf that “heaves in many a mouldering heap.”
Here the remains of poor Frank Sewell had been deposited; and as I paid a pilgrimage to the spot which contained the mortal remains, my grief revived. Beside the grave knelt a venerable figure, her head hoary with age, and the falling tears glistened on her sunk and furrowed cheeks ; her hands were clasped with pious energy, while her broken voice emitted inarticulate lamentations. As I approached she turned her hollow eyes upon me; they sent forth a look of sadness that quite appalled my heart, and again they were bent miserably upon the ground. It were a painful and thriftless task to follow the broken-hearted mother