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Hunting Sketches Anthony Trollope

The Man who Hunts and Never Jumps

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A man will not learn to ride after this fashion in a day, nor yet in a year. Of all fashions of hunting it requires, perhaps, the most patience, the keenest observation, the strongest memory, and the greatest efforts of intellect. But the power, when achieved, has its triumph; it has its respect, and it has its admirers. Our friend, while he was guiding the unfortunates on the road, knew his position, and rode for a while as though he were a chief of men. He was the chief of men there. He was doing what he knew how to do, and was not failing. He had made no boasts which stern facts would afterwards disprove. And when he rode up slowly to the wood-side, having from a distance heard the huntsman's whoop that told him of the fox's fate, he found that he had been right in every particular. No one at that moment knows the line they have all ridden as well as he knows it. But now, among the crowd, when men are turning their horses' heads to the wind, and loud questions are being asked, and false answers are being given, and the ambitious men are congratulating themselves on their deeds, he sits by listening in sardonic silence. "Twelve miles of ground !" he says to himself, repeating the words of some valiant youngster; " if it's eight, I'll eat it." And then when he hears, for he is all ear as well as all eye, when he hears a slight boast from one of his late unfortunate companions, a first small blast of the trumpet which will become loud anon if it be not checked, he smiles inwardly, and moralizes on the weakness of human nature. But the man who never jumps is not usually of a benevolent nature, and it is almost certain that he will make up a little story against the boaster.

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Such is the amusement of the man who rides and never jumps. Attached to every hunt there will be always one or two such men. Their evidence is generally reliable; their knowledge of the country is not to be doubted; they seldom come to any severe trouble; and have usually made for themselves a very wide circle of hunting acquaintances by whom they are quietly respected. But I think that men regard them as they do the chaplain on board a man-of-war, or as they would regard a herald on a field of battle. When men are assembled for fighting, the man who notoriously does not fight must feel himself to be somewhat lower than his brethren around him, and must be so esteemed by others.

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Hunting Sketches
Anthony Trollope

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