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Hunting Sketches Anthony Trollope

The Man who Hunts and Never Jumps

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The man who hunts and doesn't jump, presuming him not to be a duke or any man greatly established as a Nimrod in the hunting world, generally comes out in a black coat and a hat, so that he may not be specially conspicuous in his deviations from the line of the running. He began his hunting probably in search of exercise, but has gradually come to add a peculiar amusement to that pursuit; and of a certain phase of hunting he at last learns more than most of those who ride closest to the hounds. He becomes wonderfully skillful in surmising the line which a fox may probably take, and in keeping himself upon roads parallel to the ruck of the horsemen. He is studious of the wind, and knows to a point of the compass whence it is blowing. He is intimately conversant with every covert in the country; and, beyond this, is acquainted with every earth in which foxes have had their nurseries, or are likely to locate them. He remembers the drains on the different farms in which the hunted animal may possible take refuge, and has a memory even for rabbit-holes. His eye becomes accustomed to distinguish the form of a moving horseman over half-a-dozen fields; and let him see but a cap of any leading man, and he will know which way to turn himself. His knowledge of the country is correct to a marvel. While the man who rides straight is altogether ignorant of his whereabouts, and will not even distinguish the woods through which he has ridden scores of times, the man who rides and never jumps always knows where he is with the utmost accuracy. Where parish is divided from parish and farm from farm, has been a study to him; and he has learned the purpose and bearing of every lane. He is never thrown out, and knows the nearest way from every point to point. If there be a line of gates across from one road to another he will use them, but he will commit himself to a line of gates on the land of no farmer who uses padlocks.

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As he trots along the road, occasionally breaking into a gallop when he perceives from some sign known to him that the hunt is turning from him, he is generally accompanied by two or three unfortunates who have lost their way and have straggled from the hounds; and to them he is a guide, philosopher, and friend. He is good-natured for the moment, and patronizes the lost ones. He informs them that they are at last in the right way, and consoles them by assurances that they have lost nothing.

"The fox broke, you know, from the sharp corner of Granby-wood," he says; " the only spot that the crowd had left for him. I saw him come out, standing on the bridge in the road. Then he ran up-wind as far as Green's barn." " Of course he did," says one of the unfortunates who thinks he remembers something of a barn in the early part of the performance. "I was with the three or four first as far as that." "There were twenty men before the hounds there," says our man of the road, who is not without a grain of sarcasm, and can use it when he is strong on his own ground. "Well, he turned there, and ran back very near the corner; but he was headed by a sheep-dog, luckily, and went to the left across the brook." "Ah, that's where I lost them," says one unfortunate. " I was with them miles beyond that," says another. "There were five or six men rode the brook," continues our philosopher, who names the four or five, not mentioning the unfortunate who had spoken last as having been among the number. "Well; then he went across by Ashby Grange, and tried the drain at the back of the farmyard, but Bootle had had it stopped. A fox got in there one day last March, and Bootle always stops it since that. So he had to go on, and he crossed the turnpike close by Ashby Church. I saw him cross, and the hounds were then full five minutes behind him. He went through Frolic Wood, but he didn't hang a minute, and right up the pastures to Morley Hall." "That's where I was thrown out," says the unfortunate who had boasted before, and who is still disposed to boast a little. But our philosopher assures him that he has not in truth been near Morley Hall; and when the unfortunate one makes an attempt to argue, puts him down thoroughly. " All I can say is, you couldn't have been there and be here too at this moment. Morley Hall is a mile and a half to our right, and now they're coming round to the Linney. He'll go into the little wood there, and as there isn't as much as a nutshell open for him, they'll kill him there. It'll have been a tidy little thing, but not very fast. I've hardly been out of a trot yet, but we may as well move on now." Then he breaks into an easy canter by the side of the road, while the unfortunates, who have been rolling among the heavy-ploughed ground in the early part of the day, make vain efforts to ride by his side. They keep him, however, in sight, and are comforted; for he is a man with a character, and knows what he is about. He will never be utterly lost, and as long as they can remain in his company they will not be subjected to that dreadful feeling of absolute failure which comes upon an inexperienced sportsman when he finds himself quite alone, and does not know which way to turn himself.

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Hunting Sketches
Anthony Trollope

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