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Hunting Sketches Anthony Trollope

The Lady who Rides to Hounds

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But there is the hunting lady who rides hard and never asks for assistance. Perhaps I may be allowed to explain to embryo Dianas, to the growing huntresses of the present age, that she who rides and makes no demand receives attention as close as is ever given to her more imperious sister. And how welcome she is ! What a grace she lends to the day's sport! How pleasant it is to see her in her pride of place, achieving her mastery over the difficulties in her way by her own wit, as all men, and all women also, must really do who intend to ride to hounds; and doing it all without any sign that the difficulties are too great for her!

The lady who rides like this is in truth seldom in the way. I have heard men declare that they would never wish to see a sidesaddle in the field because women are troublesome, and because they must be treated with attention let the press of the moment be ever so instant. From this I dissent altogether. The small amount of courtesy that is needed is more than atoned for by the grace of her presence, and in fact produces no more impediment in the hunting-field than in other scenes of life. But in the hunting-field, as in other scenes, let assistance never be demanded by a woman. If the lady finds that she cannot keep a place in the first flight without such demands on the patience of those around her, let her acknowledge to herself that the attempt is not in her line, and that it should be abandoned. If it be the ambition of a hunting lady to ride straight, and women have very much of this ambition, let her use her eyes but never her voice; and let her ever have a smile for those who help her in her little difficulties. Let her never ask any one " to take care of that gate," or look as though she expected the profane crowd to keep aloof from her. So shall she win the hearts of those around her, and go safely through brake and brier, over ditch and dyke, and meet with a score of knights around her who will be willing and able to give her eager aid should the chance of any moment require it.

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There are two accusations which the more demure portion of the world is apt to advance against hunting ladies, or, as I should better say, against hunting as an amusement for ladies. It leads to flirting, they say, to flirting of a sort which mothers would not approve; and it leads to fast habits, to ways and thoughts which are of the horse horsey, and of the stable, strongly tinged with the rack and manger. The first of these accusations is, I think, simply made in ignorance. As girls are brought up among us now-a-days, they may all flirt, if they have a mind to do so; and opportunities for flirting are much better and much more commodious in the ball-room, in the drawing-room, or in the park, than they are in the hunting-field. Nor is the work in hand of a nature to create flirting tendencies, as, it must be admitted, is the nature of the work in hand when the floors are waxed and the fiddles are going. And this error has sprung from, or forms part of, another, which is wonderfully common among non - hunting folk. It is very widely thought by many, who do not, as a rule, put themselves in opposition to the amusements of the world, that hunting in itself is a wicked thing; that hunting men are fast, given to unclean living and bad ways of life; that they usually go to bed drunk, and that they go about the world roaring hunting cries, and disturbing the peace of the innocent generally. With such men, who could wish that wife, sister, or daughter should associate? But I venture to say that this opinion, which I believe to be common, is erroneous, and that men who hunt are not more iniquitous than men who go out fishing, or play dominoes, or dig in their gardens. Maxima debetur pueris reverentia, and still more to damsels; but if boys and girls will never go where they will hear more to injure them than they will usually do amidst the ordinary conversation of a hunting field, the maxima reverentia will have been attained.

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Hunting Sketches
Anthony Trollope

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