“With nostrils opening wide, o’er hill,
The vigorous hounds pursue, with ev'ry breath
Inhale the grateful steam, quick pleasures sting
Their tingling nerves, while they their thanks repay,
And in triumphant melody confess
The titillating joy”—Somervile.
“COME on, Maister! this is no time of
day to lie sweltering in bed,” said Billy’s cheery voice.
It was 4.10 A.M. on the morning of our first cubbing, and swelter
could barely be called an accurate description of my condition. For
when I woke up half-an-hour previously, in time to stop the alarum
clock from going off, I had looked out and had seen in the grey
light a distinct rime on the grass, and felt the atmosphere more
than chilly. But passing over this, I replied, “Thanks for waking
me, Bill; please don’t disturb the house, but slip downstairs and
light up the coffee, like a good chap, and I'll be with you in two
twos.” When, half-an-hour later, I joined him at the stable door, he
was stamping his feet, thumping his hands, and sucking impatiently
at a black briar pipe.
When the horses, old “Safe Conveyance” and the grey mare, were led
out, their thin summer coats stood up, their tails were tucked tight
in, and their ears laid back; and when we got up and moved away they
put their backs up and were ready to wriggle out from below us on
the smallest excuse. We were soon all aglow with the canter across
the moor to the farm, which we accomplished without incident, except
the dropping of Billy’s pipe.
The sight of hounds rushing out of kennel further quickened the
circulation, and though old “Safety” usually stood their onset very
steadily, she wheeled with such amazing rapidity that we nearly
parted company, and I saw an ill-suppressed smile on Tom the
feeder’s face. Then reinforced by the two lads, we moved away.
Full of eager expectation, we jogged along towards the hills, not
holding hounds up too closely. We first tried an old plantation of
about six acres, not thoroughly well fenced off and rather bare of
under cover, and got indications of a cold line here and there. The
old hounds had feathered and tried hard to own it from time to time,
and were desperately keen; they had tried every yard of it and came
out readily to the voice, a little bit inclined to flash, but we
soon had them in hand and proceeded to our next draw.
Imagine a thirty-year-old plantation, about sixteen acres in extent,
of spruce and Scotch fir, with some unhealthy larches and a few
hardwoods, chiefly ash and mountain-ash, all lichen-covered and
wind-waved, some lying over and some laid flat by gales, of
quadrangular shape, with sharp-pointed corners and slightly incurved
sides, surrounded by an old fail dyke two and a half feet high,
riddled with rabbit holes on two sheltered sides, and surmounted by
two bars of rotten paling. Through it were patches where the trees
were thick and bushy but stunted, and here the heather grew close
and high, overhanging and covering the open drains that had been
made to dry the mossy soil, and providing dry snug lying in all
weathers. From one corner stretched a thick bed of reeds and dwarf
willows, running out into a small moss, where water stood several
feet deep during most of the year. This was the starting-point,
which we approached with feelings not easily described.
Billy and Tom slipped forward to watch their respective corners as
arranged, with repeated orders to hold the fox or foxes up in cover
as long as they could, on no account to holloa the first fox away,
and not to cheer to an old fox on pain of a double thonging.
Assisted by Jack and two young farmers, on fat sweating horses, who
had turned up, we followed on, keeping hounds together. When within
two or three hundred yards of cover, hounds broke away on a drag,
and opened before they got to the wood, into which they hurled
In less time than it took to get forward, and before the young
hounds had squeezed through the fence, Billy was screaming on the
other side as if to burst his lungs, and hounds were crushing
through the undergrowth in full chorus and pouring out at the far
side. Billy made a faint attempt to ride across them in response to
my yells of “Stop them, for pity's sake, stop them!” Then catching
hold of his bridle and kicking his long-legged grey mare in the
ribs, he humped his shoulders and sent her pounding away in pursuit.
“Why did you holler them away? Why didn't you stop them?” I shouted,
when I got within earshot; “it can’t be a cub.”
“Don’t know" replied he, in the tone of don’t-want-to-know; “only
saw his back as he crept along the bottom of the sheep drain.”
Here was an unexpected start, and an undesired one: a hill fox with
his nose to the hills, and hounds screaming close behind him on a
hot scent, having had no work to draw for him, and no trouble to
find him themselves, and the young hounds hanging back wondering
what it was all about.
But see the sheep drawing together only a quarter of a mile in
front; and “Jupiter! there he goes crossing back over the white moss
and coming in; perhaps it’s a cub after all.” By riding inside of
hounds as they swung left-handed we got nearer them, and to our joy
saw them turn sharp back towards the cover we had just left. But to
our dismay we heard them run right through without dwelling, saw
them carry the line out on the far side, and things began to look
serious as they streamed away a second time, with an increased cry
and no slackening of speed, most of the puppies joining in this
Divided between a desperate desire to get forward to see which
hounds were running at head, and to hang back and curse Billy, I
galloped along towards the hills, the chorus getting fainter as
hounds tailed out and sunk the wind. At first I kept in touch by
riding the ridges, where the going was sound, and by keeping to some
bridle tracks which I knew, and saw hounds crossing to the right
front towards Billy, who was riding cunning on the off-side, and who
now seemed likely to cut in. On looking round again, I saw the grey
mare loose, floundering in soft ground, with her rider on his hands
and knees, with a crumpled hat. He got up and ran helplessly after
her as she gained sounder ground, and made for a corner in a
cross-wire fence. To my horror she rose deliberately at it, and
though ringing the top wire hard all round, she got over it and
cantered off in a direction opposite to that in which the pack were
Luckily I hit upon a gate, and then having little else as a guide
than the terriers showing now and again like white specks on the
heather, and sheep occasionally bunched together on the hillsides, I
held on my way. I was making for a deep glen or linn in the heart of
the hills, which ran at right angles to the line of the chase, for,
knowing it to have at least two strong breeding earths besides
numerous kennels and lying places on the rocky ledges and loose
stones on both sides of the stream, I fully expected to find hounds
here. Half-an-hour of bad going, during which there was no
indication of them except the overtaking of two very tired and blown
puppies, whose delight to see me was touching, brought me within
hail of a shepherd. He shouted back in a high-pitched key that he
had “seen hoonds rinnin’ like mad oot by ayont the bunemaist scaur
in the fore day.” In the next half-mile occurred not the least
catastrophe of the day, for in scrambling over a gap in the stone
wall “Old Safety” cut herself badly. After washing and binding it
up, the wound continued to bleed considerably, so there was nothing
for it but to go back home with her. Seven miles took an hour and a
half to do, when at eleven o’clock I again set out on a fresh horse
to look for the pack.
I found one hound near where I had turned back, evidently working
homewards on the back trail, which confirmed the shepherd lad’s
information, and jogging along for another six miles towards a large
woodland in enclosed country, a gamekeeper gave the news that a
certain young farmer had got hold of the hounds, had taken them on
to his farm and shut them up in his straw barn. There I found them a
little footsore, and one couple only short, and heard Paton’s story.
At about 10.30 A.M. he was riding in to the market town. While off
his horse to open a gate on the edge of the moor, he saw a fox
crossing a grass field. Not dreaming of hounds, and seeing the fox
was very tired, he kept perfectly still and watched. The animal made
three attempts to jump a wall before succeeding, and then he saw him
creep towards the mouth of a stone drain, slowly and deliberately
walk past it to a manure heap. On this he rolled, after which he
came back by a series of jumps down wind and disappeared into the
drain just as leading hounds crossed the wall sixty yards behind
him. The drain, which was usually protected by an iron grating, was
fully half a mile long, and led to a threshing-mill pond, and had
many side branches; and though large enough to admit a terrier, it
was considered by the Duke’s people, in whose country it was, too
strong to allow of bolting.
After refreshing man and horse, we started with Jack, who had
opportunely turned up, picked up the two missing hounds on the way,
and reached kennels at 8 P.M.
Billy emerged from the stables, where he had been watching his mare
being dressed over, looking very much injured. He had come home
early in the afternoon in the nearest approach to bad temper
possible to him, and had received scant sympathy from the household.
He was not improved by the remark of a young girl, who innocently
inquired if he had had a nice run; and as he had been engaged in
chasing his horse for the best part of three hours, he could not
reciprocate the smile that flitted over Joanna’s face; nor, had he
known she had prompted the question to the young lady, could he have
immediately forgiven her.
At nine-o'clock dinner, after hearing my tale, he told his.
He declared he had ridden out to stop tail hounds from running a
hare that had jumped up from her form in front of their noses, when
his mare blundered elbow deep into a soft spot, and shot him over
her head. He was up as soon as the mare, but could not catch her.
Just as he had cornered the “jade” between two wire fences, “the
long-legged besom that she is” hoisted herself over with a buck and
“How and where did you catch her?”
“Caught her in a stackyard two hours later in the middle of the next
parish; must have jumped about six fences to get there, and after a
wide forward cast round, brought her home; spoiled a hat and lost a
spur—made good use of the remaining one, though,” he added
Later on, from the room adjoining the smoke-room, scraps of
conversation came drifting. Billy was evidently telling his oft-told
tale, and from the tone of his voice, seeking sympathy.
“Are you still thinking of selling 'Quicksilver’?” asked Joan.
“I would willingly have presented her to my dearest foe this
morning,” he replied. “What’s the use of keeping a beast that won’t
jump when asked, and jumps like a wallaby when not wanted?” Then
raising his voice, “I wonder if the Master has written up his
“Just done so.”
“What have you said?”
“Hounds ran a cracker with an old fox from Dodhead cover by
Whiterope Moss, Glenlude Linn, and Blaw-wearie Moor to Burn foot
with no help, and without checking, and marked the fox to ground in
the Park Mill pond drain—a fourteen-mile point— all up except old
Lapwing and one and a half couple of puppies.”
“Did you say all the staff was up at the drain, or up the drain?
“And lost hounds for a time, and Whipper-in altogether,” suggested
“I am adding, Second Whip lost his horse, one of his spurs, and part
of his temper.”
“Never cub unless you're sure of finding cubs,” growled Billy.
“Never holler hounds on to an old fox. Good night,” was the retort.
On the smoke-room table next morning we found this draft
For Sale (along with the Forest Hunt Cub Hunters), the Property of
W. G. Kerr, Esq.,
Grey Mare “Quicksilver,”
(16 hands, 5 years old)
By “Loadstone” from a “Grey leg” mare.
Undocked, good hunter, a fine free fencer, and fast; very good in a
“And long-tailed, long-pedigreed, long-winded, and long-suffering;
warranted not to refuse wire,” was added in a feminine hand.