« AnteriorContinuar »
Sir Roger, being at present too old for fox-hunting, to keep himself in action has disposed of his beagles and got a pack of stop-hounds. What these want in speed he endeavors to make amends for by the deepness of their mouths and the variety of their notes, which are suited in 5 such manner to each other that the whole
makes up . a a complete concert. He is so nice in this particular that a gentleman having made him a present of a very fine hound the other day, the knight returned it by the servant with a great many expressions of civility, but desired him 10 to tell his master that the dog he had sent was indeed a most excellent bass, but that at present he only wanted a counter tenor. Could I believe my friend had ever read Shakespeare, I should certainly conclude he had taken the hint from Theseus, in the “Midsummer Night's 15 Dream”:
“My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kinu,
So few'd, so sanded, and their heads are hung
Sir Roger is so keen at this sport that he has been out almost every day since I came down; and upon the chap- 25 lain's offering to lend me his easy pad, I was prevailed on yesterday morning to make one of the company. I was extremely pleased, as we rid along, to observe the general benevolence of all the neighborhood towards my friend. The farmers' sons thought themselves happy if they could 30 open a gate for the good old knight as he passed by; which he generally requited with a nod or a smile, and a kind inquiry after their fathers and uncles.
After we had rid about a mile from home, we came
upon a large heath, and the sportsmen began to beat. They had done so for some time, when, as I was at a little distance from the rest of the company, I saw a hare
pop out from a small furze-brake almost under
horse's feet. 5 I marked the way she took, which I endeavored to make the company sensible of by extending my arm; but to no purpose, till Sir Roger, who knows that none of my extraordinary motions are insignificant, rode up to me,
and asked me if puss was gone that way. Upon my 10 answering, “ Yes," he immediately called in the dogs and
put them upon the scent. As they were going off, I heard one of the country fellows muttering to his companion that 'twas a wonder they had not lost all their sport, for want of the silent gentleman's crying “ Stole away !”
This, with my aversion to leaping hedges, made me withdraw to a rising ground, from whence I could have the picture of the whole chase, without the fatigue of keeping in with the hounds. The hare immediately threw
them above a mile behind her; but I was pleased to find 20 that instead of running straight forwards, or, in hunter's
language, “flying the country," as I was afraid she might have done, she wheeled about, and described a sort of circle round the hill where I had taken my station, in
such manner as gave me a very distinct view of the sport. 25 I could see her first pass by, and the dogs some time
afterwards unravelling the whole track she had made, and following her through all her doubles. I was at the same time delighted in observing that deference which the rest
of the pack paid to each particular hound, according to 30 the character he had acquired amongst them : if they were
at fault, and an old hound of reputation opened but once, he was immediately followed by the whole cry; while a raw dog, or one who was a noted liar, might have yelped his heart out without being taken notice of.
The hare now, after having squatted two or three times, and been put up again as often, came still nearer to the place where she was at first started. The dogs pursued her, and these were followed by the jolly knight, who rode upon a white gelding, encompassed by his tenants 5 and servants, and cheering his hounds with all the gaiety of five-and-twenty. One of the sportsmen rode up to me, and told me that he was sure the chase was almost at an end, because the old dogs, which had hitherto lain behind, now headed the pack. The fellow was in the right. Our 10 hare took a large field just under us, followed by the full cry “in view.” I must confess the brightness of the weather, the cheerfulness of everything around me, the chiding of the hounds, which was returned upon us in a double echo from two neighboring hills, with the hollowing 15 of the sportsmen, and the sounding of the horn, lifted my spirits into a most lively pleasure, which I freely indulged because I was sure it was innocent. If I was under any concern, it was on the account of the poor hare, that was now quite spent, and almost within the reach of her 20 enemies; when the huntsman, getting forward, threw down his pole before the dogs. They were now within eight yards of that game which they had been pursuing for almost as many hours; yet on the signal before mentioned, they all made a sudden stand, and though they 25 continued opening as much as before, durst not once attempt to pass beyond the pole. At the same time Sir Roger rode forward, and, alighting, took up the hare in his arms, which he soon delivered up to one of his servants with an order, if she could be kept alive, to let her go in 30 his great orchard, where it seems he has several of these prisoners of war, who live together in a very comfortable captivity. I was highly pleased to see the discipline of the pack, and the good-nature of the knight, who could
not find in his heart to murder a creature that had given him so much diversion.
As we were returning home I remembered that Monsieur Pascal, in his most excellent discourse on the “ Misery of 5
Man," tells us that all our endeavors after greatness proceed from nothing but a desire of being surrounded by a multitude of persons and affairs that may hinder us from looking into ourselves, which is a view we cannot bear.
He afterwards goes on to show that our love of sports 10 comes from the same reason, and is particularly severe
upon hunting. “What,” says he, “unless it be to drown thought, can make men throw away so much time and pains upon a silly animal, which they might
buy cheaper in the market?” The foregoing reflection is certainly just 15 when a man suffers his whole mind to be drawn into his
sports, and altogether loses himself in the woods ; but does not affect those who propose a far more laudable end from this
exercise, I mean, the preservation of health and keeping
all the organs of the soul in a condition to execute 20 her orders. Had that incomparable person, whom I last
quoted, been a little more indulgent to himself in this point, the world might probably have enjoyed him much longer; whereas through too great an application to his
studies in his youth, he contracted that ill habit of body 25 which, after a tedious sickness, carried him off in the
fortieth year of his age; and the whole history we have of his life till that time, is but one continued account of the behavior of a noble soul struggling under innumerable
а. pains and distempers. 30
For my own part, I intend to hunt twice a week during my stay with Sir Roger ; and shall prescribe the moderate use of this exercise to all my country friends, as the best kind of physic for mending a bad constitution and preserving a good one.
I cannot do this better than in the following lines out of Mr. Dryden :
The first physicians by debauch were made ;
THERE are some opinions in which a man should stand neufer, without engaging his assent to one side or the other. Such a hovering faith as this, which refuses to 15 settle
upon any determination, is absolutely necessary to a mind that is careful to avoid errors and prepossessions. When
the arguments press equally on both sides, in matters that are indifferent to us, the safest method is to give up ourselves to neither.
It is with this temper of mind that I consider the subject of witchcraft. When I hear the relations that are made from all parts of the world, — not only from Norway and Lapland, from the East and West Indies, but from every particular nation in Europe, — I cannot forbear 25 thinking that there is such an intercourse and commerce with evil spirits as that which we express by the name of witchcraft. But when I consider that the ignorant and