Hound and Horn in Jedforrest Chapter V. First blood
With silence lead thy many-coloured
In all their beauty's pride. See how they range
Dispersed, how busily this way and that
They cross, examining with curious nose
Each likely haunt.Somervile.
OUR next venture was more successful.
There | had been a week of warm dewy nights and sunny days; just the
sort of weather to make foxes lie out; and we were at work at
daybreak with eighteen and a half couple drawing the open. We had
tried through some bracken beds and dry mosses before going on to
run hounds through the peat hags on higher ground, when Jack pointed
upwards with his whip. Old Peter Amos stood on a hilltop, one arm
swinging like a flail in full action, his cap held high on the point
of his stick with the other, but quite silenthe knew more than to
shout. We climbed up towards him, and seemingly before we were
within hailing distance he shouted down the hillside with a voice
that would have pierced a snowdrift: Auld Tweed cam til a deid sett
at a heather buss and begood t girn, an whan A gaed forrit a
muckle foax lap up an made for the heichts by the Blue Cairn. That
was off an on toonty meenits sin, he bellowed. We took hounds
round to the other side of the Blue Cairn height, and they spread
out nicely through some rushy ground feeling for the line, then
touching it they darted away and ran heel up wind back over the
Dod, man, thats the back fit theyre rinnin, roared old Peter,
who had strode round in surprisingly quick time as the hounds ran
right back to the kennel in his heather buss, then threw up their
heads, wheeling round and round. Then he continued in an agony of
distress: Get awa yont, ye rash-heided, donnert deevils ; auld
Tweed wad made better wark, he added, as I slithered past him
blowing the horn, Jack cantering round them to turn them back. In a
few minutes we had them put right, and were riding down an easy
slope, hounds running along the edge of a long dry moss which ended
in a deep watercourse. Crossing this, we had about two miles of
rough benty ground, where hounds made away from us, but we got to
them again very busy in a large fir plantation. After two or three
turns round it, when we cracked our whips and showed ourselves as
much as possible, the chorus growing louder and louder, there was a
sudden lull, and then Jacks whoop came from the other side. I found
him standing by a rabbit burrow, at the mouth of which hounds were
baying and tearing the turf and digging like demons.
Shall we give him any law, sir? asked Jack.
Not a bit, sir, replied a perspiring young farmer for me. Theres
fer owre mony o them here-away; theyve taen the maist feck o ma
wifes chickens, an noo theyve yokit on the auld dockers.
Very well; get a paling stob, and well soon have him out.
A few minutes digging disclosed our cub.
Whoop whoo-oop whoo-oo-oop! screamed Billy.
Worryworryworry too-too-too too-too-too too-too-too-too-oo!
went the horn.
Must have a pad in memory of first blood.
Dead, dead, dead; leave it, hounds! said my amateur first whip.
Very good; but dont lay your whip about you so; dont frighten
young hounds; let them break him up outside the cover and eat him.
Jack whipped off the brush and one pad, and holding the carcase up
high before tossing it to the hounds, we screamed to our hearts
All up, sir, said Jack, as Lawless, a rather timid puppy, came in.
We saved a few scraps, pads and tit-bits, for the young hounds, and
were coaxing them to taste them, when the boy riding my second horse
came with the information that he had seen a fox leave the lower end
of the plantation two minutes ago. So, before hounds had recovered
their wind, we were cantering round, and soon had the satisfaction
of seeing them dash away and settle down to run as if they meant
business. A nice wide ring over sound lea heather ground brought us
in a quarter of an hour, with one slight check where sheep had
crossed the line, to a fair-sized stream, down the bed of which
hounds hunted very closely, and where I saw two of the puppies very
keen, as they were led to cross and recross the stream. Half a mile
lower down were the buildings of a hill farm, a dwelling-house with
outhouses behind, standing in an angle formed by the junction of a
smaller stream with this one. A woman and two girls were at the
kitchen door gesticulating excitedly.
Billy popped over a fair-sized rail into a sheep-yard, only to pop
out again the same way, for the other side was an impossible walla
most unnecessary performance; but he was always bold with a gallery.
Please dont scream, Missus, said Billy, as hounds cast all round
the outhouses, and the good ladys apron waved, and her stout arm
"The foax cam by the end o the hen-hoose an gaed up the burn.
Thank you, Missus.
Pilgrim has it; hark to Pilgrim; huic together, huic! as the old
hound ran up the bed of the burn baying like a bloodhound, the
others hastening to him. Up they hunted very prettily to a deep
ravine, above which they paused a minute on bare ground, and struck
off across the open moor again. They were now running very fast,
only a tail hound or two speaking, the leading hounds almost silent,
and one or two drawing out from the others.
There he goes, the poor beggar, hes doomed.
Walking up a bank sparsely covered with hazelnut bushes was our
luckless cubdoubtless brother to the one that met his fate earlier
in the morning. He lay down behind a bush, then made a spurt to
reach the stream again; but Dexter and Regent getting a view of him,
raced up and turned him to Warrior, Pilgrim, and Trojan, who
simultaneously grabbed him as he faced round at them with wide-open
Heres the brush of
a good stout cub for you, Mr. Grieve, said I to our hen-raising
farmer, as that gentleman came panting up.
Thank ye, sir; that was not his first veesit to my hen-hoose, but
it will be his last, the thief. Come roond my way an Til gie ye a
taste o butter-milk an whuskeya graund drink for a hot mornin'
"Many thanks, but its a little out of our way, replied I, glancing
at my second whip, who would fain have gone back. Good morning.
A satisfactory morning, Master, said Billy, as we sauntered
Yes, Bill; all but for one thing. I would have liked it better had
hounds found these two foxes entirely by themselves. They hunted
them well enough, but they had none of the fun or trouble of hunting
for them; and if they always have them found for them like this,
they may become impatient and careless in drawing.
On that homeward ride, as on many subsequent occasions, we went over
minutely every small incident of the morning, discussing the
individual performances of each hound; how the old hounds ran in
turn at head without jealousy; how one or two of the young ones
would dart forward as if to snatch it away from their elders, but
when they were in difficulties, how they had to fall back and allow
the more experienced to show them how to keep to the line; how this
hound was best on the sheep tracks and that across the burnt
heather: agreeing that there was a great deal of delight to be had
from watching all this, even though the riding part of it was not up
to what it is in enclosed country over fences.
Billy devoted a good deal of soliloquy as to what he would have done
had he been the fox, and why.
Now that first beggar, if he had only gone on past Huntly wood, he
might have run us out of scent with his twenty minutes start,
instead of trying to push his brother up (we had decided they were
brothers) and then going and trying to hide. Silly ass! Id rather
have gone till I dropped than stuff my head into a rabbit hole and
be half dead with suffocation first, before being dragged out like a
condemned criminal. These two cubs showed all the difference between
how to die like a soldier, face to the foe, and how to die like a
Why convict, Bill?
"Because, dont you see, in his last moments, all his past evil life
would come up before him, and he felt so jolly mean-spirited that he
didnt care, and convicted himself and hid for very shame.
After all, I suppose that both the two of them did what they
thought to be their duty; and anyhow, they served a purpose. Well,
at least, they only obeyed the first instinct of all animals, which
is that of self-preservation; and whether their actions were
directed by any other motive or not, we cannot tell. After a pause,
the talk took a more serious turn. Our philosopher remarked: I
suppose we run a certain amount of risk ourselves in galloping over
these rough moors; though I take it, and we all take it, as only
part of the fun, and we would not ask for less of it.
Do you know that the Arabs have a proverb The horsemans grave is
No; but I rather like it. I dont call myself a horseman, but when
my time comes Id likewell, what I do funk, really would funk, is a
long slow ending, a real bad trouble, or worse still being
crippledugh ! No ; anything but thatId like it to be short; just
the sudden topple into the grave of the Arab.
For many a day did the recollection of that ride home remain in my
mind; and, indeed, I rarely think of our first blood without
recalling every word of our talk as we drank in the delight of that
splendid autumn morning.
I wish we could stop and hunt in these grand hills for all time,
At first this seemed a strange announcement coming from Billy, whose
appreciation of a hunt was in proportion to the number and nature of
the fences he met and crossed; who rarely noticed natural scenery;
who generally devoted less attention to hounds and hound work than
to his own horses performance, and to that of his friends and
rivals; and who hitherto had often spoken slightingly of hunting in
We had risen gently to the top of some high ground, and were riding
through a nick between two hillsa swire as it is locally called,
with the ground falling away before usand we looked down upon and
across a wide upland valley lit up by an early September sun.
We saw a sea of round-topped hills rolling on every side, the
prevailing colour green, but that of an infinite variety of shades,
the brown bent grass in the foreground relieved in patches by the
gold of the frost-tinted bracken, and in larger stretches
by the dull purple of the slow-fading heather; the colouring now
contrasting sharply, and now blending harmoniously, as a shaft of
the sun rested on it, or a shadow from a drifting cloud dimmed it
for a moment. Here and there a spot of grey indicated an out-by
shepherds cottage, with byre and potato ground attached, sometimes
poorly protected by a stell of battered Scotch firs, looking in the
distance like a bunch of broom bushes, but more often placed in a
howe of natural shelter. Black dots were the peats fresh cut and
loose stacked, to dry, but not yet led in.
Stone cairns stood silent sentinels on the tops of the more
prominent heights; while away to the west blue-grey mists rolled
slowly up to the summits and clung to them before joining the clouds
floating, like masses of newly-shorn fleece wool, above them.
On either side of the valley, the foot of each long limb stretching
down from the higher ground was clothed with a fringe of birk and
hazel; the bosoms of the hills were divided by hanging hopes ; their
shoulders were cleft by sike and cleuch; and their heads were fitted
with caps of light veil-like vapour which, from time to time, passed
from one to the other.
Isnt this perfectly heavenly, Billy?
We gazed spellbound, then glanced at each other, and Billy, in a
half whisper, said, Man, don't speak. O God! these grand green
hills! which was, perhaps, the best expressed prayer he had
breathed for years.
We rode in silence for some time, till my companion said, You dont
want me to help you home with the hounds, do you? For I think, if
you dont mind, old chap, I'll go round by the Ford. And as I made
no reply, he continued, Its not so far out of the way (it was a
trifle of nine miles or so), and the days young yet; and besides,
John Elliot has a colt I rather want to see. Hes been handling him,
and was to back him this week, he continued, talking hurriedly, and
looking earnestly across to the other side of the valley.
It was such an unusual custom for Billy to give so many and so
minute reasons for his contemplated movements that my curiosity was
roused; but without displaying it, I gazed hard into space and
waited for more. It came.
Do you think that bird-skinning, fox-stuffing barber at Midhope
Village could give me a decent shave, for I feel rather a nigger?
Yes, I think he could; but that's two miles more out of the way.
Is it so much as that? Then I must saunter on. By-the-by, John said
he'd perhaps ride out by the swire on the chance of picking me up.
As soon as he had forced the unwilling grey mare to turn off down
the bridle-path and proceed a little way, the saunter was quickened
to an easy canter, and before he passed out of sight I saw, not the
stout form of John Elliot, but a slim figure in a skirt, on a white
pony, appearing from the opposite direction. The two converged, met,
and then rode away together through the shining hills.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.