Abbildungen der Seite

stone, into flight fleet as that of the falcon's wing! Instinct against instinct ! fear and ferocity in one flight ! Pursuers and pursued bound together, in every turning and twisting of their career, by the operation of two headlong passions! Now they are all three upon her-and she dies ! No! glancing aside, like a bullet from a wall, she bounds almost at a right angle from her straight course-and, for a moment, seems to have made good her escape. Shooting headlong one over the other, all three, with erected tails, suddenly bring themselves up like racing barks when down goes the helm, and one after another, bowsprit and boom almost entangled, rounds the buoy, and again bears up on the starboard tack upon a wind, and in a close line-head to heel so that you might cover them all with a sheet in slips of the Magazine again, all open-mouthed on her haunches, seem to drive, and go with her over the cliff.

We are all on foot--and pray what horse could gallop through among all these quagmires, over all the hags in these peat-mosses, over all the water-cressy and puddocky ditches sinking soft on hither and thither side, even to the two-legged leaper's ankle or knee-up that hill on the perpendicular strewn with flint-shivers-down these loose. hanging cliffs—through that brake of old stunted birches with stools hard as iron-over that mile of quaking muir where the plover breeds and finally-up-up-up to where the dwarfed heather dies away among the cinders, and in winter you might mistake a flock of ptarmigan for a patch of snow?

The thing is impossible--so we are all on foot--and the fleetest keeper that ever flew in Scotland shall not in a run of three miles give us twenty yards. « Ha! Peter, the wild boy, how are you off for wind ?"-we exultingly exclaim, in giving Red-jacket the go-by on the bent. But see-see-they are bringing her back again down the Red Mount-glancing aside, she throws them all three out-yes, all three, and sew enow too, though fair play be a jewel-and ere they can recover, she is a-head a hundred yards up the hill. There is a beautiful trial of bone and bottom! Now one, and then another, takes almost imperceptibly the lead-but she steals away from

them, inch by inch-beating them all blind-and, suddenly disappearing-Heaven knows how leaves them all in the lurch. With out-lolling tongues, hanging heads, panting sides, and drooping tails, they come one by one down the steep, looking somewhat sheepish, and then lie down together on their sides as if indeed about to die in defeat. She carried away her cocked fud unscathed for the third time, from three of the best in all broad Scotland -nor can there any longer be the smallest doubt in the world, in the minds of the most sceptical, that she iswhat all the country-side have long known her to bea witch.

From cat-killing to coursing, we have seen that the transition is easy in the order of nature-and so is it from coursing to fox-hunting-by means, however, of a small intermediate step-the harriers. Musical is a pack of harriers as a peal of bells. How melodiously they ring the changes in the woods, and in the hollow of the moun. tains ! A level country, we have already consigned to merited contempt (though there is no rule without an exception; and, as we shall see by and by, there is one too here), and commend us, even with harriers, to the ups and downs of the pastoral or sylvan heights. If old or indolent, take your station on a heaven-kissing hill, and hug the echoes to your heart. Or, if you will ride, then let it be on a nimble galloway of some fourteen hands, that can gallop a good pace on the road, and keep sure footing on bridle-paths, or upon the pathless braes-and by judicious horsemanship, you may meet the pack at many a loud-mouthed burst, and haply be not far out at the death. But the schoolboy-and the shepherd-and the whipper-in-as each hopes for favour from his own Diana-let them all be on foot and have studied the country for every imaginable variety that can occur in the winter's campaign. One often hears of a cunning old fox-but the cunningest old fox is a simpleton to the most guileless young hare. What deceit in every double! What calculation in every squat! Of what far more complicated than Cretan labyrinth is the creature, now hunted for the first time, sitting in the centre ! a-listening the baffled roar! Now into the pool she plunges to free 'S

herself from the fatal scent that lures on death. Now down the torrent course she runs and leaps, to cleanse it from her poor paws, fur-protected from the sharp flints that lame the fiends that so sorely beset her, till many limp along in their own blood. Now along the coping of stone walls she crawls and scrambles-and now ventures from the wood along the frequented highroad, heedless of danger from the front, so that she may escape the horrid growling in the rear. Now into the pretty little garden of the wayside, or even the village cot, she creeps, as if to implore protection from the innocent children, or the nursing mother. Yes, she will even seek refuge in the sanctuary of the cradle. The terrier drags her out from below a tombstone, and she dies in the churchyard. The hunters come reeking and reeling on, we ourselves among the number—and to the winding horn the echoes reply from the walls of the house of worship-and now, in momentary contrition,

“ Drops a sad, serious tear upon our playful pen!" and we bethink ourselves-alas, all in vain-for

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret”of these solemn lines of the poet of peace and humanity :

“One lesson, reader, let us two divide,

Taught by what nature shows and what conceals,
Never to blend our pleasure and our pride

With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels."
It is next to impossible to reduce fine poetry to practice

so let us conclude with a panegyric on fox-hunting. The passion for this pastime is the very strongest that can possess the heart-nor, of all the heroes of antiquity, is there one to our imagination more poetical than Nimrod. His whole character is given, and his whole history in two words—Mighty Hunter. That he hunted the fox is not probablem for the sole aim and end of his existence was not to exterminate--that would have been cutting his own throat-but to thin man-devouring wild beasts--the pards- with Leo at their head. But in a land like this, where not even a wolf has existed for centuries--nor a wild boar--the same spirit, that would have driven the British youth on the tusk and paw of the lion and the tiger, mounts them in scarlet on such steeds as never neighed before the flood, nor - summered high in bliss" on the sloping pastures of undeluged Araratand gathers them together in gallant array on the edge of the cover,

“When first the hunter's startling horn is heard

Upon the golden hills.”

What a squadron of cavalry! What fiery eyes and flaming nostrils--betokening with what ardent passion the noble animals will revel in the chase! Bay, brown, black, dun, chestnut, sorrel, gray,-of all shades and hues --and every courser distinguished by his own peculiar character of shape and form,- yet all blending harmo. niously as they crown the mount; so that a painter would only have to group and colour them as they stand, nor lose, if able to catch them, one of the dazzling lights or deepening shadows streamed on them from that sunny, yet not unstormy sky.

You read in books of travels and romances, or Barbs and Arabs galloping in the desert—and well doth Sir Walter speak of Saladin at the head of his Saracenic chivalry ; but take our word for it, great part of all such descriptions are mere falsehood or fudge. Why in the devil's name should dwellers in the desert always be going at full speed? And how can that full speed be any thing more than a slow heavy hand-gallop at the best, the barbs being up to the belly at every stroke? They are always, it is said, in high condition—but we, who know something about horse-flesh, give that assertion the lie. They have seldom any thing either to eat or drink; are lean as churchmice; and covered with clammy sweat before they have trotted a league from the tent. And then such a set of absurd riders, with knees up to their noses, like so many tailors riding to Brentford,' via the deserts of Arabia! Such bits, such bridles, and such saddles ! But the whole set-out, rider and ridden, accoutrements and all, is too much for one's gravity, and must occasion a frequent laugh to the wild ass as he goes braying unharnessed by. But look there! Arabian blood, and British bone! Not bred in and into the death of all the fine strong animal spirits—but blood intermingled and interfused by twenty crosses, nature exulting in each successive produce, till her power can no farther go, and in yonder glorious gray,

“Gives the world assurance of a horse !"
“ A horse! A horse! A kingdom for a horse !"

Form the three hundred into squadron, or squadrons, and in the hand of each rider a sabre alone, none of your lances, all bare his breast but for the silver-laced blue, the gorgeous uniform of the hussars of England, --confound all cuirasses and cuirassiers,-let the trumpet sound a charge, and ten thousand of the proudest of the Barbaric chivalry be opposed with spear and scimitar,-and through their snow-ranks will the three hundred go like thaw splitting them into dissolution with the noise of thunder.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating of it; and where, we ask, were the British cavalry ever overthrown? And how could the great north-country horse-coupers perform their contracts, but for the triumphs of the turf? Blood-blood there must be, either for strength, or speed, or endurance. The very heaviest cavalry—the Lise Guards and the Scots Grays, and all other dragoons, must have blood. But without racing and fox-hunting, where could it be found ? Such pastimes nerve one of the arms of the nation when in battle; but for them 'twould be palsied. What better education, too, not only for the horse, but rider, before playing a bloodier game in his first war campaign? Thus he becomes demicorpsed with the noble animal; and what easy, equable motion to him, is after. wards a charge over a wide level plain, with nothing in the way but a few regiments of Aying Frenchmen! The hills and dales of merry England have been the best riding-school to her gentlenien-her gentlemen who have not lived at home at easebut with Paget, and Stewart, and Seymour, and Cotton, and Somerset, and Vivian, have left their hereditary halls, and all the peaceful pas

« ZurückWeiter »