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Hunting Sketches Anthony Trollope

The Master of Hounds

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But there are heavy duties, deep responsibilities, and much true heart-felt anxiety to stand as makeweight against all these sweets. The master of hounds, even though he take no part in the actual work of hunting his own pack, has always his hands full of work. He is always learning, and always called upon to act on his knowledge suddenly. A Lord Mayor may sit at the Mansionhouse, I think, without knowing much of the law. He may do so without discovery of his ignorance. But the master of hounds who does not know his business is seen through at once. To say what that business is would take a paper longer than this, and the precept writer by no means considers himself equal to such a task. But it is multifarious, and demands a special intellect for itself. The master should have an eye like an eagle's, an ear like a thief's, and a heart like a dog's that can be either soft or ruthless as occasion may require. How he should love his foxes, and with what pertinacity he should kill them! How he should rejoice when his skill has assisted in giving the choice men of his hunt a run that they can remember for the next six years ! And how heavy should be his heart within him when he trudges home with them, weary after a blank day, to the misery of which his incompetency has, perhaps, contributed ! A master of hounds should be an anxious man; so anxious that the privilege of talking to pretty girls should be of little service to him.

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One word I will say as to the manners of a master of hounds, and then I will have done. He should be an urbane man, but not too urbane; and he should certainly be capable of great austerity. It used to be said that no captain of a man-of-war could hold his own without swearing. I will not quite say the same of a master of hounds, or the old ladies who think hunting to be wicked will have a handle against me. But I will declare that if any man could be justified in swearing, it would be a master of hounds. The troubles of the captain are as nothing to his. The captain has the ultimate power of the sword, or at any rate of the fetter, in his hands, while the master has but his own tongue to trust, his tongue and a certain influence which his position gives him. The master who can make that influence suffice without swearing is indeed a great man. Now-a-days swearing is so distasteful to the world at large, that great efforts are made to rule without it, and some such efforts are successful; but any man who has hunted for the last twenty years will bear me out in saying that hard words in a master's mouth used to be considered indispensable. Now and then a little irony is tried. "I wonder, sir, how much you'd take to go home ?" I once heard a master ask of a red-coated stranger who was certainly more often among the hounds than he need have been. "Nothing on earth, sir, while you carry on as you are doing just at present," said the stranger. The master accepted the compliment, and the stranger sinned no more.

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Hunting Sketches
Anthony Trollope

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