Hound and Horn in Jedforrest Chapter III. A mornings Exercise
Then on the sunny bank they roll and
Their dripping limbs, or else in wanton rings
Coursing around pursuers and pursued;
The merry multitudes disporting play."
grey mare was turning out fairly well, but she had much to learn.
She was being schooled to stand the whip, and was also being
regularly ridden on the moor to train her to avoid putting her feet
in sheep drains, of which she knew nothing when she first came. She
had one very bad fault, which was to run back directly she felt the
toe in the stirrup. Billy was very patient with her, and gentled her
up to a certain point, and if this failed he adopted a stronger
method. His endearing epithets were numerous. He would begin by
Gently then, my little lady; Gently now, my bonnie sweetheart;
Woe ho, my pet beauty, woe ho. Then, as the mare moved backwards,
he would tap her behind the fore-legs and say, Stand still, will
you; Stand still, you wild wench; Stand still, you lanky jade;
Stand still, you long-legged besom. Being a man of resource, he
tied up a forefoot, and used to spend hours swinging his own long
leg up and down, and practising mounting from the off side, at which
he soon became an adept. Lastly, he formed a sort of crusha narrow
pen of two palings ended by a stiff prickly holly bushinside of
which enclosure he pushed her, and swung confidently into the
saddle. This first experiment was more than successful, for the mare
backed against the bush and then shot forward so suddenly and with
such force, that she jerked her rider behind the saddle, and then
getting a slight chuck in the mouth she got up on end and slid the
astonished horseman not ungracefully over her tail, to the
unconcealed delight of the few privileged onlookers. The jade got
clear, and after cutting up the tennis lawn, was only captured at
the stable door. The gentling method was taken up again, and proved
successful, for she was soon pronounced whip quiet, and steady to
It was about this time that Billy made a halfhearted approach to
pass on the Clinker to the Hunt stable, at a profit of course.
Are you sure you have plenty horses to start with, old man? he
began. These hill fellows are terrible keen, and even two days a
week, with an occasional five days a fortnight, will take some doin
in that country. I hear they are accustomed to hounds drawing on
till dark, whatever they may have done in the mornin. it would
never do to start with too few.
I explained that I was in the enviable position of only being
required to horse myself, that my first whip found his own horses,
and that the second whip really did second horsemans work only, as
there was never any trouble with hounds not coming on or being left
out; that five horses keeping sound would easily do the work, and
reminded him that I had five, not counting the little mare that old
Batters called the Powney, and which had never been known to tire
or fall. Then came a feeler.
My mare is going awfully nicely with Jack (second horseman) just
now; shell make a clinking hunter.
I thought she was that already, said I.
Then after a pause, as if speaking to himself: Ive a mind to do a
swop with Jack Elliot; hes half a stone lighter than I am, and his
mare, though not so fast as mine, is up to a stone more weight; and
continued, I think youd like her if you once rode her, and I'm
only asking a tenner more than I paid for her.
To which I answered, No, no, Bill, I dont buy unmade ones, and
never one made or unmade from a pal. Swop with Jack Elliot if you
like, but dont try to shunt her on to me.
Next morning he said, after our return from exercise, I say, old
man, Im awfully glad you didnt buy my mare off me last night,
than which nothing had been more remote from my intention.
This abortive deal partly but not wholly prepared me for Jack
Elliots question a few days later.
Are you really trying to buy Bill Kerrs mare? I looked
encouragingly at him, and he went on. For if you are, Ill stand
out till the deal is done or off. He says you are awfully sweet on
I was petrified to hear this, though I managed to conceal my
amazement, and more than amused when it came round to me later that
the young ruffian had added, She takes a little bit of riding, and
between ourselves, I dont think that she is exactly his mare.
That mornings exercise had been productive of several small
incidents. Billy had returned to the slumbering house, under the
pretext of getting his pipe, after we started, and had taken off his
hat to a lightly draped figure at an upper window, which he did with
so much action as to make the mare shy off, and he dropped his pipe
on the gravel. He got down to pick it up, and found that the lesson
of the holly bush had been, temporarily at least, forgotten, for
directly he put his foot into the stirrup, and before he could swing
up, the "Clinker began her old trick of running backwards and
spinning round. No man looks his best in the difficult and
humiliating position of hopping on a straightened leg after a
gyrating horse, the other foot being wedged firmly home in the
stirrup three feet or more from the ground. Bill was aware of this,
but kept his head admirably, though a chuckle of laughter came from
behind the curtain of the open window. He was mindful of his
experience of the slide over the tail, and let the reins lie
perfectly loose, and waiting his chance till the moment of a slight
lull in the top-like movement, he took a big handful of mane and
swung into the saddle. The mare darted off like a released bird, and
before he caught his stirrup she had done a good half-mile at racing
Not long after
leaving kennels we came across the stale drag of a night-wandering
fox, for some of the old hounds, after feeling about with noses on
the ground, darted out, and stooping to it, would soon have carried
it on. But the vigilant Jack was round them in an instant, and
swinging his whip with Warrior, leave it there; get over and leave
it, Pilgrim, while Billy chimed in, the two soon had the pack
clustering round the old mares heels. So on we went for a couple of
hours, now walking, now jogging, till we came to a knoll covered
with short heather. There we got down and spent half-an-hour letting
hounds roll and push and draw themselves along on their backs and
sides to their full content, and tossing bits of biscuit to the
Let's have a practice at the horn, Master," said Billy. Whereupon
he blew a blast with more vehemence than harmony. Old Safety ran
backward with fright, the Irish mare wheeled round with the whip,
the old hounds raised their ears and looked puzzled, and the young
hounds dropped their sterns and prepared for flight; in fact,
Playmate made off, dragging old Marmion, to whom he was coupled, for
some distance before he stopped. The sheep on the opposite hillside
drew together in alarm, and I now knew what old Peter the shepherd
meant this morning. He had told me: A couldna' jaloose what had
gliffed the sheep off the hicht yestreen. A faund the hill-end cut
a hotted thigether in a batt when A cam' roun the hill. My
volunteer whip had stolen out to the hilltop to have a practice on
And some of the mornings incidents were of an amusing nature. A
little way beyond our halting place we suddenly came upon a most
patriarchal-looking billy-goat tethered by a long rope to a stout
stake. Some of the young hounds were scared, and seemed inclined to
bolt, but most of them appeared to wish a closer inspection. Two or
three had fallen behind. Jack went back to put them on, cracking his
whip as I called encouragingly to them. This had the effect of
starting the goat off at a fast canter, which he kept up round and
round in ever-lessening circles till he had wound himself up close
to his post, where, stamping and butting, he looked most formidable,
with Ruffian, Pilgrim, and Pirate baying at him. It took several
smart cuts with the whip to drive them oft, and my laughter did not
diminish when Billy said, "By Jove, I do believe they would not have
been long in breaking up old Nebuchadnezzar. Tell ye what, if we
dont find a fox first day out we might enlarge the patriarch on the
top of Blue Cairn; believe theyd run the high old boy with half a
These exercising trails, as Batters called them, were a great
delight at the time, and a most pleasant recollection to recallthe
whole surroundings were so attractive and picturesque, and it was
all so satisfying. At the same time we looked forward with an
eagerness that almost amounted to impatience to the rapidly
approaching time when we should start work.
When do you intend to begin business, Master? was the question
frequently put by my supernumerary whip, and repeated this morning
as we turned our horses heads homewards. It was explained to him
that the hill country would only stand three or four days hunting
at most, that though cubs had been seen we could not be sure they
had not moved on, and that in our own country proper, where we
proposed to move shortly, corn would not be cut for two or three
On one of the first days of September the usual question was put,
supplemented by the observation, Look at the muscles on hounds
backs and thighs, and see how fit horses are.
Yes; but we must have a few more days on the roads to harden
hounds feet, and one or two more of these long trails on the hill
tracks will be of great benefit to horses legs.
Horses legs are hard and clean, and old 'Safety' is getting quite
conceited (referring to an unexpected wallop the old mare had given
some mornings ago, and which had put me on to her neck).
I took no notice of Bills last remark, and replied, Yes, legs are
good; thats the cool wet grass knee-high acting as a cold-water
bandage, and the absence of concussion in these soft hill tracks.
They must have some more of it, and get on to faster work and have a
pipe opener or two before they are fit to begin business, as you put
it; but perhaps the week after next, if it comes rain.
I saw Billy's suction get a little stronger, and great volumes of
smoke came from his half-extinguished pipe, and he vented his
feelings by putting his heels into his mares sides, which caused
her to jump forward almost on the top of some coupled hounds.
At late breakfast he said, through a mouthful of cold grouse pie, I
dont know which part of it I like best, its all so splendid and
Joanna and I exchanged glances, for this was the exact description
given of Billy himself lately, and it fitted him precisely.
I think I know, said the lady, as she drew the oatcakes and honey
from his reach; but really, you must put on the muzzle if you wish
to get anywhere near the hounds when they run by-and-by.
A man can't work for nothing; you surely dont grudge me two light
meals a day, with a snack between times?
Its the snacks I do grudge, replied the housekeeper, wistfully
eyeing about half a pound of honeycomb being transferred to his
As I was looking through my letters, Billy, who had been down to the
stables to see how much of her oats the grey mare had left, for
amongst other faults she was a shy feeder, reported, "Theres a
character in the saddle-room; youd better go down and see him.
Who is he, Bill?
Oh, go and see for yourself; I think hell amuse you.
After finishing my correspondence, I went down, and was surprised to
see a figure which I took to be Batters, in an unimpeachable Sunday
suit of clothes, sitting on a stool silently smoking. He never
moved, and scarcely appeared to breathe, so somewhat mystified, I
said in a half whisper, Batters.
Coming, sir, said that worthy from the adjoining stable, and when
he appeared the resemblance to the motionless figure was still more
apparent. A was stertin to rasp that grey mares teeth; thats ma
Batters looked any age between thirty and sixty, but was much nearer
the latter age, and the figure on the stool looked considerably
younger as it sat; but on being spoken to it solemnly dropped from
the stool on to the shortest and bandiest pair of legs that ever
curled round a saddle flap, removed the pipe from its mouth, and
sticking it behind its ear, stood at attention.
Hes just ridden a colt over from Sir William Millers to see the
Irish mare, went on Batters, junior, and hell be starting back
Youve had a long ride, I said.
Parteeklar, sir, was the reply.
How do you like the mare?
Parteeklar, parteeklar, sir.
Come up to the house before you go.
Parteeklar, parteeklar, parteeklar, sir.
The old fellow soon after appeared, part and parcel of his horse, at
the door. Billy had offered him cherry brandy, saying to me,
Perhaps it may make him diversify his dialogue, and the old chap
with a brightening eye assented, believing he was being offered
brandy. He eyed the ruby liquid very suspiciously, and would have
smelled it had he been unobserved. Then taking a very small sip, he
said, Parteeklar; another sipNo bad; sipGey guid; sipDode,
thats better nor whusky; a large sip A body wad never sta onna
that; a final gulp Yin could juist drink that till yin fell aneth
True, laughed Billy, that will set you up for the ride home. How
far is it.
Parteeklar, sir, thirty mile, the old boy responded, as he started
at a hounds jog pace down the avenue.
Well, that beats anything I ever heard in the Forest country last
week, roared Bill; and after dinner that night he related some of
his experiences on that occasion. He had repaired thither with his
mare, partly on his own business, and partly on that of the Hunt. I
had deputed him to see how the work at the new kennels was
progressing, to call on prospective puppy walkers, to see some of
the farmers and learn when harvest was likely to be over, and to
carry out many such, to him, congenial errands. His projected two
nights away had been extended to a week. He had had two days
grouse-shooting, two days trout-fishing, one lazy day (Sunday of
course), and two days at business, staying most of the time with the
Elliots, and he came home wearing one of Jack Elliots shirts and
carrying one of Miss Flos pocket-handkerchiefs. He had deferred
meeting some of the hunting men till his last day (market day), and
had a heavy time, and on his return complained of headache.
Look here, Master, he said, if you want to drink even with some
of those old Johnnies over in the Forest country, youll have to
begin to harden a bit. I was boxed up yesterday with three or four
old topers; one a coursing man, one a famous curler, and one a
gamekeeper, and all keen fox-hunters. The last was hale and hearty,
and took his liquor straight, while the others were gulping and
shirking and spilling it, while I was sitting tight scarcely daring
to move. Old Cherry-trees asked McAlister the keeper, seventy-five
if a day, George, how have ye kept yer health so well? What kind of
rule did ye make about drink? Weel, Jims, old M'Alister returned,
"made this rule early in life, an I follit it a thro: I drank
whusky and naething but whusky every day up ti sunset; then
(sinking his voice to a whisper) efter sunsetbrandy.
Old Dykes the coursing farmer told that so far as he knew only one
of the young hounds at walk had come to grief, and that by being run
over by a loaded cart, about which the guid-wife was heartbroken,
and had that very day written me a letter imploring me to send her
another whelp. Dykes also told, through many hiccups, how his own
puppy, in fighting with a young greyhound bitch for the coveted
honour of sleeping across the foot of his cooks bed, had bitten her
(the sapling, not the wummin, Dykes interjected) through the eye
to the loss of its sight. When sympathised with, and asked by Billy
if he would not like to send the puppy in, the old fellow replied,
Oh, never heed, I wadna like to want the whulp or lambing comes in,
an hell mebbe no daet again.
All these quaint characters he had met, and the evidences of the
sportsmanlike tendencies of the people had made a great impression
on Billy, who kept going over his experiences again and again, and
deploring the fact that he had not made earlier acquaintance with
them. He had seen Tom Telfer, our official first whip, itching for
the appearance of the pack in the field, and had met for the first
time Sandy Oliver, master of a south side of the Border Hunt, a man
for whom cleuchs and sykes and bogs, and mosses, and well-eyes, and
hidden sheep drains, and swollen burns, and treacherous fords had no
terrors, and who was at home amongst the hills on the blackest night
and in the wildest snow-drift.
He also came across a daft soul, Will Phaup o the Wisp. In a rough
prolonged hill chase this individual, a great breeder of rams and of
a few horses as well, was undefeated. He had pulled out a wellshaped
but rather backward three-year-old for inspection, and was told it
looked short of condition.
I never like them rolling fat to start the season, he stated.
But youre never going to hunt that beast; I was going to ask if he
was broken to lead, Billy had said.
Broken to lead, shrieked Will Phaup; man, I hunted him last
season three days in the same week in the foremost flight.
But, Will, thats no way to treat a young one.
I ken, lad, but the auld mare was lame, and when the hoonds come
whoopin and hollerin' round yer verra door, whats a man to dae?
We smoked and talked, and talked and smoked again till far past
midnight, and Billy was knocking the ashes from his pipe preparatory
to telling of Andrew Waugh, the very finest old boy of the lot,
when a summons from the bed-room overhead was rapped out through the
ceiling with such precision and vigour as to leave no doubt of its
meaning, and the sitting was adjourned.
When I retired, a voice from the pillows asked, Have you fixed upon
a name for the grey mare yet? Well, no, we didnt touch on the
subject at all. Why?
Because hes been at me to suggest a name for his mare, and Ive
given him some most suitable ones 'Quicksilver, 'Grey Nun, and
others; and Im determined not to propose the one he wants, and you
must not do so either.
What does he want, and how do you know? Why, stupid, 'Lady
Florence of course.
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