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Hound and Horn in Jedforrest
Chapter VI. Getting to work


“When autumn is flaunting her banner of pride
For glory that summer has fled,
Arrayed in the robes of his royalty, dyed
In tawny and orange and red;
When the oak is yet rife with the vigour of life
Tho' his acorns are dropping below,
Thro' bramble and brake shall the echoes awake
To the ring of a clear ‘Tally-ho!’”
—Whyte-Melville.

ONE of the closing days of September saw us, about 6 A.M., turn our horses’ heads away from our summer quarters and point towards the lower country, to take possession of the kennels made ready for us in the so-called Forest country proper, to make acquaintance with the people and the country, and to begin the serious business of regular hunting.

Not without regret did we leave behind the scene of our first efforts and get off the moorland track on to macadamised roads, between hedgerows, through cultivated land. .

About half-way, to our anxiety, we heard hounds in chase in the distance, and realised we were in danger of joining in with the “Duke’s.” Trotting back for half a mile, we held hounds up till the cry ceased.

We would fain have shut our own hounds up and followed, but we were encumbered with headstalls, and couples, and muzzles, and small stable impedimenta, so we refrained, and moved cautiously forward. No hounds broke away, but we shortly afterwards missed two terriers. The keen little creatures had made oft and followed the fun, coupled together, till they were caught hung up on a wire fence quite exhausted and showing marks of a severe battle.

We made out the rest of the journey without further incident, and found all in readiness for us. Hounds signalised their entry into their new quarters by bursting open an unbolted door into the feeding-house, while Tom was attending to his horse, and feeding themselves.

The preparations for our reception included, besides a well-stocked larder, an old beef horse which, from the size and shape of one of his hind-legs, we named “Bedpost.” He was afflicted with grease, and was fond of leaning up against a support and scratching the affected leg with his sound one.

On the way to the kennels next morning we found that old “Bedpost” had, during the night, been supporting himself against a rail fence surrounding the tennis lawn. He had begun at one end, and carrying away a rood at a time, had worked his way along, levelling the whole to the ground. He then got his rump comfortably wedged against an old arbour, which, though he did not raze, he canted considerably off the straight. That day he was turned into the cow-field, which was surrounded by a strong iron fence, in which apparently secure barrier he found a weak spot; for about 3 A.M. I was wakened by a stamping noise outside the front door, continued at regular intervals, and kept up so long that I went down. There I found old “Bedpost” leaning on the iron railing at the foot of the stone steps, indulging in his practice of scratching his big leg. The poor beast was soon afterwards converted into soup.

Hounds were received with symptoms of great enthusiasm by all dwellers in the Forest country; not only by those who followed them, but by many who never had been, and could never hope to be, out with them. During the early days of cubbing in the first season, many indications were shown of a strong interest in the hunt, and a keen appreciation of the sport.

An old farmer occupying land adjoining the kennels never missed seeing hounds go out in the morning; no matter how early they left the kennels, old Wight was at his gate to see us pass ; and though rather a solemn-looking individual at ordinary times, he always had a wide grin to give us and a salute much more marked and ceremonious than on other occasions. A hand raised half-way up to his hat and a sort of backward jerk of his head was his market-day recognition ; but a low bow and a downward sweep of his hat was always given to the hounds. He was equally anxious for our safe return; and if he had not seen us come in before dark, he used to make his wife and son take turns to watch and listen. The latter, one night, got tired of his cold vigil, and reported our return to his father, who, unfortunately for Tom’s veracity, heard the horn sounding to acquaint the stablemen of our approach an hour later. The old man suspecting Tom’s error, asked me at what hour we got back, and on being told 7.30, he said, “An’ Tammas had ye hame an oor suner, the leein’ thief; he's a guid pleughman, but he wad never dae for a hunter, him.”

The old man used to supply the stable with straw and oats, and was with difficulty coaxed into the house one day to get a settlement of his account for provender. Only the bribe of a promised dram, and the assurance that there were no women-folk about, overcame his shyness and reluctance; but once in, the trouble was to get him to leave. At parting he said: “It wad been a positeeve calamity if ye hadna come forrit to cairry on the hoonds. I think ye’ll dae; aye, I think ye’ll dae. I wasna share aboot ye at first, I thocht ye was owre prood."

The same old gentleman was not without a sense of humour. Meeting him one market day, he accosted me as follows:—

“A saw a graun fox hunt last week. The fox cam doon the furr juist twae feerins aff whaur Tam was plewin’, an’ the whole o’ the hoonds sune efter, doon the verra same furr, gein’ mooth graund, a bonnie sicht a’ thegither, fox an’ hoonds, an’ a’; but,” with a dig in my ribs, “nae riders, nae riders.”

His farm was intersected, as much of the country is, by a long deep glen, with only one or two crossing-places; and if the chase leads over such a place, unless you hit upon a crossing it is often a case of "nae riders.”

The hill men were especially keen, real sportsmen, with an inborn love of horse and hound, and an intimate knowledge of the science and craft of hunting. They knew the likely lie of a fox in all weathers, and his probable line when hunted, and were most appreciative of hound work, and quick to observe it.

Good stockmen and breeders, most of them had the trained eye of the natural judge of form, and could tell at a glance a true-shaped horse. They generally possessed a good one or two of their own breeding, and, while careful to ease them when occasion demanded, got the most possible out of them when required.

I used to admire the way they slipped off their horse, then threw the reins over his head, and ran at top speed down the steepest hillside, the sensible beast neither hanging back nor rushing on, but adjusting his pace to that of his master, and following like a trained dog, the pair arriving at the bottom and being away again together before a less active and less practised man had made up his mind whether to get down and lead or not.

It was a pretty sight to see them lift their terrier 011 to the saddle in front of them, as they often did, by getting him on to the top side of the slope, taking a foot out of their stirrup, and stretching it out towards him. The eager little beggar would half jump, half scramble till he was grabbed hold of and planted down on the thigh of his master, who would then canter off in no way inconvenienced by his awkward burden.

The way they get over their own country, without getting in, is remarkable, for much of it is almost unrideable, except to the man and horse who know how to do it. It is their pride to boast they have hunted a whole season, or several seasons, as may be the case, and without ever having been “laired.” Many a good chase have I enjoyed assisted by the observations and example of one or other of these hard hill lads.

Not one whit behind their masters in keenness and in fondness of fox-hunting are the hill shepherds. From their point of vantage on a hilltop, behind a stone cairn perhaps, they often see more of the incidents of the chase than a regular follower. With an eye like a hawk's, they can view a fox as soon as ever he stirs a mile off. They can pick him up as he crawls along the loose stones of the slithers on a bare hillside, as he creeps the bottom of a sheep drain, or as he slinks through the bracken beds, taking advantage of the formation and colour of every bit of ground to conceal himself till he has selected his point; and then they can mark him streaking away like a yellow flash to the heights; and even long after he is beyond their sight, they see his course by the movement of the sheep, and the swooping of the curlews and the plovers.

Their delight is to see the hounds run the line out of sight and hearing, and to wait and watch for them coming back again with a tired fox close before them.

Their dogs are shut up at home on hunting days, and they rarely shout, but communicate their intelligence by waving their handkerchiefs on the end of a stick.

I remember a young lad running the best part of two miles to tell me my hunted fox had lain down on a heap of loose stones, and that hounds were running the line of one that had been disturbed by the cry, and had slunk away before we had come into sight.

But all over the same interest existed. The farm labourers and roadmen were alike pleased to see hounds, and were delighted to report any incident they had observed.

They seldom spoke of the fox as such by his name. An old road-mender, bent double with rheumatism and leaning on two sticks, said one day: “Oo had a veesit frae yin o’ yer freen’s last nicht, sir. He liftit twae duicks till us. The wife’s kinda compleenin’, but A’m no sayin’ a word masel.” Or: “A saw him the nicht afore last i’ the grey derk; he was a yalla yin ! eh, he was a muckle yalla yin! no’ the little reed yin A tell’t ye o’ afore.”

Great was the disappointment of the folk if a fox was not found on their own farm.

“Hae ye no raised him yet, sir?” said a jolly-looking farm steward, as I was blowing hounds out after a blank draw.

“Not yet, Sandy.”

“Did ye try Braeside whin, an’ no raise him there?”

“No, Sandy.”

“Dod, that bates a’, an’ me saw twae there the other Sunday. A dander oot maist every Sunday efternuin to see if A can see him.”

A good type of hill farmer wras Tom Telfer, by his own inclination and desire, endorsed by common consent and unanimous selection, official First Whip to the Hunt. Born and brought up in the hills, he knew every yard of ground on both sides of the Border line in a twenty-mile radius from home, had early developed a liking for field sports, and soon acquired a faculty for crossing a rough country that was remarkable even in a community of hard riders. He was always well mounted; but, indeed, whatever he rode had got to go where and how he wanted, and whether it liked it or not, although it generally seemed to like it. His horses never pulled or fought with him. He had one infallible cure for a rash or impetuous one. 11 The first time out let the beggar stretch his neck well and tire him out proper, he’ll never forget it or want to pull again.” It was a treat to see him on a young or half-broken horse, for before the end of the day he had him with the manners of an old one.

But where he shone most was in a long fast chase over a difficult country. He was generally seen sailing away in front with the greatest apparent ease, picking his place in the fences, riding straight at them, and turning away from nothing, when suddenly we would see him shoot out right or left and gallop for all he was worth. He had seen leading hounds swing round one way or the other, and quick as thought he was cutting across to get to them. Of course, he at one time took many falls, but being light, wiry, and supple, he thought little of them.

Having whipped in to my predecessor for six years intermittently since the foundation of the pack, he was no tyro, and knew the game well. Some laughable occurrences had taken place in the embryonic days before the Hunt had developed and blossomed into the stage of advertising.

It is told of him that he had a heated altercation with the huntsman on the occasion of the two worthies donning pink for the first time. What made the scene all the more ludicrous was, that the huntsman, to complete his costume, had to wear a top-hat, his cap not having come forward, and his bowler being battered and green with age. A gale of wind made the hounds, hurriedly snatched together from the drafts of three or four kennels, wild and unhandy after being off work for a fortnight during an early frost. They had been half coaxed, half threatened, into a plantation which generally held a fox, and immediately ran riot, for unfortunately the wood was full of hares, and a good deal of rating had been heard, more professional than amateur. Tom Telfer had seen a fox leave, and galloped round to the huntsman, choking with excitement.

“What the—why the—where the deuce are you ? Blow your horn, man, blow, the fox is away!”

Resenting being told in this fashion, the huntsman retaliated: “Crack your whip, man, crack!”

“Man alive! you blow your horn!”

“Snakes alive! you crack your whip!”

This was the beginning of the colloquy, and then Tom roared to his superior: “It’s your business to gallop on and blow in front of the hounds to get them out!”

“It's your place to go back behind hounds and crack them out to me!”

“Blow, blow, you blockhead, blow!”

“Now, Tom, if you’re going to sit there and sing hymns to me we’ll never get on. Crack ! crack ! you crazy critter, crack! Which way did you say he had gone?”

But meanwhile two fast, jealous, and mute hounds—Driver and Duster—had slipped away, not unperceived by Tom Telfer, who straightway went after them like a sky rocket, and the rest of the day was spent in following the somewhat mixed line of scent of the fox, Tom Telfer, and one couple of hounds, which caused the pack, and consequently the field, to string out considerably. When, as the dusk was drawing in, huntsman and whip next met —it was at a cavernous-looking earth among the peat hags on the top of Windburgh—there were no listeners within earshot to hear what were the complimentary words that passed between them.

One of the keenest of the keen was Andrew Waugh, a contracting mason, who did a fair amount of trade for most of the country houses round, building and renewing farm offices, and such work. One of his specialties was kitchen ranges and ovens, and the cure of smoky chimneys. One day, after taking down a kitchen range, and being on the house-top repairing a chimney-can, he spied hounds trotting off to draw a very likely plantation. He promptly slid down the ladder, and dragging his pony from its feed of corn, joined in with his working apron on, and with all the ardour of a school-boy released from school. Needless to say, his contract knew him no more that day, and the mansion had to cook its dinner on the scullery stove till the pony, cut during that day’s hunt, had sufficiently recovered to carry its master to his job.

My introduction to him was on an Abbotvale day, when hounds were in full cry with a very blown cub brought in from the hills which they had been running hard, with short respite, for half-an-hour, and which they were driving from one clump of shrubbery to another, till he lay down and momentarily baffled them. I remember being particularly anxious that

there should be no noise, and that hounds should work up to him, and pusl him up. Suddenly there rose yells and shouts—“yonder he is; he’s intae the gairden; shut the door an’ they’ll hev ’im,” and a group of pedestrian onlookers swept en masse to the garden door as hounds poured through it. At the head of this detachment rode an old man, wildly waving his cap, and spurring his rough horse with his one1 spur, attached, to be more effective, upside down. His face was beaming with delight, and he thundered down a gravel path to the bottom of the garden just in time to see the wretched fox scramble over the high upright picket fence in front of a yelling pack. On he clattered out at the avenue gate, up to the hounds, through them, and away in front of them. A high stiff gate across a narrow lane will surely check him; not a bit; for flailing his willing horse he rushed it, and with a terrible rattle landed clear on the other side, just as hounds turned suddenly back in pursuit of the doubling fox.

A minute or two later they were in full chorus through the policies again, our friend at the head of affairs. I thought it was time to interfere, so riding up, I began, “ Hold hard; hold hard, please. Hi there, will you hold hard, please?” Then getting alongside I, nearly choking with rage, said, “Can’t you hear hounds are behind you?”

“He hears nothing, sir,” explained Jack. “He’s stone deaf.”

The honest fellow turned round and showed a face glowing with enjoyment and triumph, and as I pulled the Omega mare back he shouted, “They were terrible near him at the gairden fit. Come on, sir,” and gesticulating as if inviting me to a trial of speed. When the fox was killed behind us, and a pad was presented to this fearless old fellow, he said, “A wadna wonder if ma beast grows inta a hunter yet; an’ what a graund hunt we’ve hed; an’ a nice bit loup that neabody taen bit me an’ the Maister.”

This was my first acquaintance with this grand old sportsman.

On the way home we passed by the side of the road a spring cart with a wheel in the ditch, and harness thrown down or scattered about anyhow.

“Has there been an accident?” said some one.

“Oh no,” was the explanation, “this is old Andrew. He was driving away to mend the roofs at Nether-houses when he got sight of hounds, and thereupon converted his carriage horse into a hunter.”

It was after about ten days’ experience of these first days that Billy said to me: “I say', Master, if anything was to happen to you (or to me) there’ud be no lack of material for a huntsman. The way some of these boys get to hounds and know what they are doing is astonishing—a bit too noisy though, some of them.”

“Perhaps, Bill, but it’s only their keenness, and they know not to do it when hounds are on their noses and casting round to recover a line.”


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