Hound and Horn in Jedforrest Chapter II. Taking them over
“To rear, feed, hunt, and discipline the
FOLLOWING close upon this memorable morning, preliminaries were
quickly arranged, and it was agreed to take over the hounds at once,
and bring them to temporary summer quarters at a hill farm, while
the permanent premises were being put ready for them.
After spending several days with the retiring huntsman, drinking in
the flow of his advice, hanging upon his every utterance, and
fearful of forgetting the slightest tip imparted in the boiling-shed
or sleeping-house, where nearly every minute of the time was passed,
the move was made.
Tom the feeder in front, a new and proud huntsman next, Jack the
second whip and Billy flanking, and Jock the kennel terrier
strutting at the head of the pack, formed the light-hearted
cavalcade as we left at 6 A.M. one fine cool morning. The roads were
nicely damped for hounds’ feet, a condition which Tom took credit
for obtaining by special stipulation with the weather regulator. Tom
had no world outside and beyond the confines of his kennel, and
seemed to think that all things existed for or against the
well-being of his beloved hounds.
An hour's jog brought us to a river, the boundary of the Forest
country proper, which we crossed at a shallow ford, five or six
miles below a manufacturing town. Horses would not drink the
coloured water; but most of the hounds drank freely, and some were
sick immediately afterwards. Tom's remark upon the occasion was
characteristic of the man: “Stinkin’ fellahs them malefacterers
puttin' all that dye-stuff into the water—might ha' known it would
Three hours later, of which half the time led over a moorland track,
we sighted a snug farmhouse in the heart of the hills, and took
possession of the extemporised kennels. An old smearing-shed had
been converted into two sleeping-houses, with a boiling-house and a
small feeding-yard behind, and a large grass yard with a stream of
water running through it in front. We put hounds on to their
benches, and gazed at them for some time; and one satisfied soul
felt that a new era had commenced.
What an interest life had during the next few weeks, and how full
the days were. Bustle and activity reigned, and few idle moments
were passed; and what enjoyment the novelty and excitement brought.
The early rising, the canter across the moor in the crisp air to the
kennels, the long trails among the glorious hills to condition horse
and hound, the feeding of the hounds and calling them over, and all
the kennel work, the doctoring feet and ears, the loafing on the
green in the afternoons, getting acquainted with the character and
disposition of individual hounds, the playing with the puppies, all
made the days pass like a midsummer dream.
The puppies were soon made handy in the couples, and shortly after
this their ears were rounded. This operation was performed by the
huntsman of a neighbouring pack, who, by special favour, rode over
to do it, and brought two couple of draft hounds with him as an
offering of goodwill, and to strengthen our pack.
It was a noteworthy day, and every effort had been made in the
kennels to have things in apple-pie order; and the great man was
pleased to express his approval, and to say, “We looked a very
useful lot.” His remark as to the new huntsman, afterwards passed on
to me, was: “I daresay he’ll hunt the hounds well enough, quite as
well as any amature.” He gave many valuable hints, one of the chief
being: “The first day you hunt be sure to choose a place where you
are certain of finding cubs, and where there is no riot. Blood your
young hounds if possible; but above all get them to smell him and
chase him. To run a hot blowing fox before they kill him is more
important for young hounds than the actual killing; the worry often
frightens them till they know what it is.”
Episode the first was the eating of Peter Amos, the shepherd's,
favourite cat. Hounds would not look at the cats about the farm
steading, and indeed two or three lived in the kennels and used to
steal meat out of the feeding troughs. But this one invited its
fate, for one early morning it pounced on a young rabbit and carried
it off, trotting along the road in front of us for two or three
hundred yards, as we returned from exercise. Old Peter guessed what
had happened, for his favourite was missed from its daily custom of
bringing in rabbits, leverets, and young game birds to its “kittlins,”
so to clear the atmosphere we introduced the subject on the first
“Peter, there’s rather too many cats about the place just now.”
“It’s all very well to have a few to keep down the vermin, but when
they get beyond a few, they are apt to get into trouble.”
Still no reply.
“In fact, any cat seen a mile away from home will have to be
Then Peter, with a stern face and a hard voice: “For ma pairt A wud
raither keep caats az raats,” and wheeled and strode away.
One of the old draft hounds was the principal offender in this
instance, and as he distinguished himself soon after in a way
calculated to bring discredit on the pack, his death warrant was
signed. We had ridden over (with hounds) to a farm which seemed a
likely walk for a puppy. We had shut hounds up in the straw-barn,
and were interviewing old Mr. Brydon in his parlour. He had just
said: “I didna ken hoonds were sic bonny massy beasts, and I wud
like fine ti rear a whulp; but the mistress ”
Billy was eloquently urging that Mrs. B. need know no fear, two
whelps were no trouble, that one kept the other out of mischief, and
so on; when we both saw passing the window that gluttonous fiend
“Forager” with the carcase of a hen hanging from his jaws, and
pursued by another couple who were grabbing at the dainty morsel,
and strewing feathers all over the lawn. Billy ran out, and I did my
best to hold the worthy couple in conversation, and had to assent to
a second glass of very fiery whisky to accomplish this, touching on
every topic from the price and condition of ewes to the prospects of
harvest, and keeping one eye on the window and the other on Mr. B.’s
glass the while. Shortly afterwards I made an escape, leaving the
crime unconfessed, and, as we believed, undetected. Mr. Brydon’s
last words were: “I’ll think aboot the maitter o’ the whulp.”
Billy’s account was that when he got to the straw-barn he found the
two lads throwing half-mangled corpses of fowls down the pit of the
mill-wheel, and smothering clouds of feathers in the straw. Some
luckless hens had been roosting on the rafters; and when the door
was closed on the pack, they had flown down in the darkness, and
courted certain death.
No puppies were taken to walk by Mr. and Mrs. Brydon that year.
About this time Billy
went off rather suddenly and with much mystery, as he only revealed
“he was going south.” Two days later we received two
incomprehensible wires from him, the first reading, “Have bought
her;” the second, though handed in an hour before the first,
received an hour later, and reading, “Have seen A Clinker. Carrie is
a lady.” Of course, Joanna instantly composed several replies to the
effect that we were interested to have his opinion as to the gentle
birth of Carrie, and pleased that he had seen Mr. Clinker, and that
if he contemplated bringing one or both back with him she had only
one spare room at present; but dreading the complications that
mutilation of the message might produce, and grudging the 4s. 6d.
involved in sending, none of them were sent. In the end of the week
Billy returned with the Clinker, a grey thoroughbred, five-year-old
mare; but without the suggested lady, at whose non-appearance, after
having had her explained away to our dull minds, Joanna professed
When Billy asked blandly, “May I bring John Elliot to see hounds fed
to-morrow, and his sister with him ? ” I already knew from my usual
source of information that he had written asking the lady to come
with her brother to lunch, and to see hounds fed, and had received a
reply that she would be charmed. So as we strolled along the
footpath leading to the kennels next afternoon, I contrived to
appropriate the young lady in spite of Billy’s manoeuvres, and found
her delightfully naive and refreshing. Before reaching the kennels,
Miss Florence having heard that we had some cubs in captivity, asked
to see them. They were in a newly built pig-house that had never
been occupied, and the surroundings were quite sanitary and
wholesome. There was a small quantity of hay in a corner of the
inside house, and the yard was covered over with wire netting. Tom
the feeder used to look after them, but beyond throwing in a rabbit
or a crow occasionally, he did not keep them as he kept his hounds’
quarters. Miss Florence was a very dainty young lady, and as she
tip-toed up wind to the courtyard she suddenly came to a dead stop,
holding her nose.
“Shall I go in and stir them up?” said Billy.
“Oh no, please don’t; I don’t think I’d care to see them.”
As we walked away she said, “Mr. Master, I used to think it so
clever of fox-hounds to smell a fox and so far off, and wondered how
they did it. I don’t wonder at all now.”
Clad in linen coats, and taking an ash plant in our hands, we
entered the boiling-house, and at a crucial moment. Tom was standing
on a wooden stool over a thirty-gallon boiler filled with hot
bubbling porridge, and stirring with a wooden weapon like a canoe
paddle, as if his life depended on his labour, and he barely noticed
us. He then jumped down and raked out the glowing coals from the
fire-box of the furnace, and was joined by Jack, who had been
mincing up junks of boiled horse-flesh with a chopper.
“Keep the puddin’ movin’ for a bit yet, Jack. The copper is nearly
Florence looked on with great interest, and had many questions to
"Do they eat all that to-day? Do you give it them hot like that ?
Does that last them for a week?”
She was instructed that this was the feed for to-morrow and next
day, and we watched the men ladle it out with big scoops into wooden
coolers, from which the boiling of two days previous had been cut
out with a spade in solid cubes, which looked most appetising in the
troughs in the feeding-house next door.
“Let’s take hounds out on the green while the pudding is being
prepared" suggested Bill.
As hounds climbed round one, and scrambled and raced for a little
bit of broken biscuit thrown to them, my volunteer whip got the ear
of the young lady for a time, and had evidently been impressing her
with his knowledge of hounds’ names, for she said to me, “Do you
know that Mr. Kerr knows all the hounds’ names,” and added shyly,
I was obliged to confess I did, and disclaiming any supernatural
talent for the accomplishment, continued, “There is a shepherd here
who knows at a glance every one of the 640 sheep he has to look
after.” But this did not seem to impress Miss Florence as much as
might have been expected.
“Feeding-time, Tom?” as that individual appeared at the kennel door.
“Very well, now let’s see you separate the puppies first.”
“Right, sir. Stand back, hounds: steady there now: then, puppies,
little puppies, puppies only; here, little boys; here, little
dearies: ” and in no time he had six couple of young hounds forward
wriggling with delight; and while the old hounds all remained
standing dejected in the background, they were allowed to pick out
the tit-bits. Then a little more flesh and biscuits was added, and
the old hounds called over singly, the shy feeders first—Dainty,
Lavender, Beeswing, Rosalind, Pilgrim, Woodman, Ringwood, Gossamer,
Gambol, Dexter, Sportsman, Ranter, Dalesman, Driver, Newsman.
Then, after a pause, as fast as they could be named— Warrior,
Trywell, Trojan, Templar, Truthful, Dew-drop, Ringlet, Ruffian,
Regent, Proctor, Rallywood, Royal, Talisman, Rustic, Challenger,
Marmion, Pirate, Lapwing, Tyrant.
In a very short time the troughs were cleared out and polished
clean, and hounds started to lick each other all over.
“What are these poor things, Tom?” inquired Miss Florence, as three
hounds—Forager, Chorister, Wisdom—were let out of a small shed to
join the others.
“Them three, Missus, is to have ile to-night” (“Because they’ve been
naughty,” ejaculated Billy, bursting with laughter), “and I’m
preparing them for it. Besides, old Forager will lick about a full
feed off the muzzles and backs to the others.”
As we were leaving, some little kittens appeared from below the
meal-chest on the concrete floor.
“They were kittened underneath there,” explained Tom.
“You’d better put an old sack or something for them to lie on.”
“Oh, sir, when they feel cold they lie on the porridge,” retorted
Tom; and sure enough I frequently saw them after this extended flat
on their little stomachs, their hind feet pushed out behind them,
evidently enjoying the comfort of the heat-retaining pudding.
Old Batters was a man of moods. He was either tiresomely taciturn or
abundantly voluble; and we could never decide in which he showed to
the greater advantage. He had often to be consulted on matters
outside and not pertaining to the stables, and indeed was never slow
to give his opinion or present a theory when asked. He was in his
loquacious mood as he drove me back from the last train one evening
about this time, and introduced the subject of a projected servants’
“Na, na,” he emphatically declared, “A wadna hev nae drink—drink
disna dae whan there’s females aboot.”
He was equally firm as to the undesirability of including a certain
youth in the list of invited guests. This individual was a musician
and a step-dancer, and had been in great request till his habits
drove people to be rather shy of him.
“It wad never dae to hev Yeddy Da’gleish,” said the Oracle. “Ye see
the warst o’ him is whan he gets on, he strikes; no like Donal’
Purdie, for he juist roars when he gets drink, and Sandy Blyth he
juist glowers an’ grumphs. Yedd got on at Talla sports a week past
on Setterday an’ strak. Oo was kinda coaxin’ him awa’, an’ oo had
gotten ’im as fer as the brig, when he brak awa’ frae us an’ made
straicht for the tent and strak. The sairgent tell’t mi the poliss
wasna for lifting onybody frae the sports; but Yedd he strak that
sair an’ that wicked they couldna evite it, so they juist liftit
After a very brief silence, which he broke only by an abortive
hiccup, Batters went off at a tangent.
“Hev they gotten thae Boors oot o’ the camp on yon river yet ? Hes
Sir Buller won ower yet, sir?”
“No, not yet; but Sir Redvers is getting up his guns to shell them
“Weel, I’ll tell ye what should be dune—what A wad dae if they askit
me—what A think they shood dae: they shood juist keep blatterin’ on
at them nicht an’ day.”
After several more oracular utterances, and before the house-lights
appeared, I began to think I preferred Batters’ taciturn mood.
When he had received the instructions for next day, and before
driving off to the stables, he whispered mysteriously that he had
seen “the best shapit horse” in the countryside that evening at
Brockie’s livery stables while waiting for the train.
“He’s a graund tappit yin' an’ a graund middle’t yin, an’ the finest
leggit yin, wi’ the best per o’ fower legs—the best set o’ fower
legs—A ever clappit een on. Short cannon banes, an’ hocks ner the
grund, nerrer as ony A ever saw; in fack his hocks is on the grund”
He then blew into my ear: “He micht be bocht for a hunder.” Almost
in the same breath he groaned: “Dinna buy that mere o’ Maister
Expressing a desire to have an opportunity of inspecting the
phenomenal horse, and disclaiming all desire to possess the grey
mare, I for the third and last time wished him good-night.
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