The American Senator, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XI

From Impington Gorse

The fox ran straight from the covert through his well-known haunts to Impington Park, and as the hounds were astray there for two or three minutes there was a general idea that he too had got up into a tree — which would have amused the Senator very much had the Senator been there. But neither had the country nor the pace been adapted to wheels, and the Senator and the Paragon were now returning along the road towards Bragton. The fox had tried his old earths at Impington High wood, and had then skulked back along the outside of the covert. Had not one of the whips seen him he would have been troubled no further on that day, a fact, which if it could have been explained to the Senator in all its bearings, would greatly have added to his delight. But Dick viewed him; and with many holloas and much blowing of horns, and prayers from Captain Glomax that gentlemen would only be so good as to hold their tongues, and a full-tongued volley of abuse from half the field against an unfortunate gentleman who rode after the escaping fox before a hound was out of the covert, they settled again to their business. It was pretty to see the quiet ease and apparent nonchalance and almost affected absence of bustle of those who knew their work — among whom were especially to be named young Hampton, and the elder Botsey, and Lord Rufford, and, above all, a dark-visaged, long-whiskered, sombre, military man who had been in the carriage with Lord Rufford, and who had hardly spoken a word to any one the whole day. This was the celebrated Major Caneback, known to all the world as one of the dullest men and best riders across country that England had ever produced. But he was not so dull but that he knew how to make use of his accomplishment, so as always to be able to get a mount on a friend’s horses. If a man wanted to make a horse, or to try a horse, or to sell a horse, or to buy a horse, he delighted to put Major Caneback up. The Major was sympathetic and made his friend’s horses, and tried them, and sold them. Then he would take his two bottles of wine — of course from his friend’s cellar — and when asked about the day’s sport would be oracular in two words, “Rather slow,” “Quick spurt,” “Goodish thing,” “Regularly mulled,” and such like. Nevertheless it was a great thing to have Major Caneback with you. To the list of those who rode well and quietly must in justice be added our friend Larry Twentyman, who was in truth a good horseman. And he had three things to do which it was difficult enough to combine. He had a young horse which he would have liked to sell; he had to coach Kate Masters on his pony; and he desired to ride like Major Caneback.

From Impington Park they went in a straight line to Littleton Gorse skirting certain small woods which the fox disdained to enter. Here the pace was very good, and the country was all grass. It was the very cream of the U.R.U; and could the Senator have read the feelings of the dozen leading men in the run, he would have owned that they were for the time satisfied with their amusement. Could he have read Kate Master’s feelings he would have had to own that she was in an earthly Paradise. When the pony paused at the big brook, brought his four legs steadily down on the brink as though he were going to bathe, then with a bend of his back leaped to the other side, dropping his hind legs in and instantly recovering them, and when she saw that Larry had waited just a moment for her, watching to see what might be her fate, she was in heaven. “Wasn’t it a big one, Larry?” she asked in her triumph. “He did go in behind!” “Those cats of things always do it somehow,” Larry replied darting forward again and keeping the Major well in his eye. The brook had stopped one or two, and tidings came up that Ned Botsey had broken his horse’s back. The knowledge of the brook had sent some round by the road — steady riding men such as Mr. Runciman and Doctor Nupper. Captain Glomax had got into it and came up afterwards wet through, with temper by no means improved. But the glory of the day had been the way in which Lord Rufford’s young bay mare, who had never seen a brook before, had flown over it with the Major on her back, taking it, as Larry afterwards described, “just in her stride, without condescending to look at it. I was just behind the Major, and saw her do it” Larry understood that a man should never talk of his own place in a run, but he didn’t quite understand that neither should he talk of having been close to another man who was supposed to have had the best of it. Lord Rufford, who didn’t talk much of these things, quite understood that he had received full value for his billet and mount in the improved character of his mare.

Then there, was a little difficulty at the boundary fence of Impington Hall Farm. The Major who didn’t know the ground, tried it at an impracticable place, and brought his mare down. But she fell at the right side, and he was quick enough in getting away from her, not to fall under her in the ditch. Tony Tuppet, who knew every foot of that double ditch and bank, and every foot in the hedge above, kept well to the left and crept through a spot where one ditch ran into the other, intersecting of the fence. Tony, like a knowing huntsman as he was, rode always for the finish and not for immediate glory. Both Lord Rufford and Hampton, who in spite of their affected nonchalance were in truth rather riding against one another, took it all in a fly, choosing a lighter spot than that which the Major had encountered. Larry had longed to follow them, or rather to take it alongside of them, but was mindful at last of Kate and hurried down the ditch to the spot which Tony had chosen and which was now crowded by horsemen. “He would have done it as well as the best of them,” said Kate, panting for breath.

“We’re all right,” said Larry. “Follow me. Don’t let them hustle you out. Now, Mat, can’t you make way for a lady half a minute?” Mat growled, quite understanding the use which was being made of Kate Masters; but he did give way and was rewarded with a gracious smile. “You are going uncommon well, Miss Kate,” said Mat, “and I won’t stop you.” “I am so much obliged to you, Mr. Ruggles,” said Kate, not scrupling for a moment to take the advantage offered her. The fox had turned a little to the left, which was in Larry’s favour, and the Major was now close to him, covered on one side with mud, but still looking as though the mud were all right. There are some men who can crush their hats, have their boots and breeches full of water, and be covered with dirt from their faces downwards, and yet look as though nothing were amiss, while, with others, the marks of a fall are always provocative either of pity or ridicule. “I hope you’re not hurt, Major Caneback,” said Larry, glad of the occasion to speak to so distinguished an individual. The Major grunted as he rode on, finding no necessity here even for his customary two words. Little accidents, such as that, were the price he paid for his day’s entertainment.

As they got within view of Littleton Gorse Hampton, Lord Rufford, and Tony had the best of it, though two or three farmers were very close to them. At this moment Tony’s mind was much disturbed, and he looked round more than once for Captain Glomax. Captain Glomax had got into the brook, and had then ridden down to the high road which ran here near to them and which, as he knew, ran within one field of the gorse. He had lost his place and had got a ducking and was a little out of humour with things in general. It had not been his purpose to go to Impington on this day, and he was still, in his mind, saying evil things of the U.R.U. respecting that poisoned fox. Perhaps he was thinking, as itinerant masters often must think, that it was very hard to have to bear so many unpleasant things for a poor 2,000 pounds a year, and meditating, as he had done for the last two seasons, a threat that unless the money were increased, he wouldn’t hunt the country more than three times a week. As Tony got near to the gorse and also near to the road he managed with infinite skill to get the hounds off the scent, and to make a fictitious cast to the left as though he thought the fox had traversed that way. Tony knew well enough that the fox was at that moment in Littleton Gorse; — but he knew also that the gorse was only six acres, that such a fox as he had before him wouldn’t stay there two minutes after the first hound was in it, and that Dillsborough Wood, which to his imagination was full of poison — would then be only a mile and a half before him. Tony, whose fault was a tendency to mystery — as is the fault of most huntsmen — having accomplished his object in stopping the hounds, pretended to cast about with great diligence. He crossed the road and was down one side of a field and along another, looking anxiously for the Captain. “The fox has gone on to the gorse,” said the elder Botsey; “what a stupid old pig he is;”— meaning that Tony Tuppet was the pig.

“He was seen going on,” said Larry, who had come across a man mending a drain.

“It would be his run of course,” said Hampton, who was generally up to Tony’s wiles, but who was now as much in the dark as others. Then four or five rode up to the huntsman and told him that the fox had been seen heading for the gorse. Tony said not a word but bit his lips and scratched his head and bethought himself what fools men might be even though they did ride well to hounds. One word of explanation would have settled it all, but he would not speak that word till he whispered it to Captain Glomax.

In the meantime there was a crowd in the road waiting to see the result of Tony’s manoeuvres. And then, as is usual on such occasions, a little mild repartee went about — what the sportsmen themselves would have called “chaff.” Ned Botsey came up, not having broken his horse’s back as had been rumoured, but having had to drag the brute out of the brook with the help of two countrymen, and the Major was asked about his fall till he was forced to open his mouth. “Double ditch; mare fell; matter of course.” And then he got himself out of the crowd, disgusted with the littleness of mankind. Lord Rufford had been riding a very big chestnut horse, and had watched the anxious struggles of Kate Masters to hold her place. Kate, though fifteen, and quite up to that age in intelligence and impudence, was small and looked almost a child. “That’s a nice pony of yours, my dear,” said the Lord. Kate, who didn’t quite like being called “my dear,” but who knew that a lord has privileges, said that it was a very good pony. “Suppose we change,” said his lordship. “Could you ride my horse?” “He’s very big,” said Kate. “You’d look like a tom-tit on a haystack,” said his lordship. “And if you got on my pony, you’d look like a haystack on a tom-tit,” said Kate. Then it was felt that Kate Masters had had the best of that little encounter. “Yes; — I got one there,” said Lord Rufford, while his friends were laughing at him.

At length Captain Glomax was seen in the road and Tony was with him at once, whispering in his ear that the hounds if allowed to go on would certainly run into Dillsborough Wood. “D— the hounds,” muttered the Captain; but he knew too well what he was about to face so terrible a danger. “They’re going home,” he said as soon as he had joined Lord Rufford and the crowd.

“Going home!” exclaimed a pink-coated young rider of a hired horse which had been going well with him; and as he said so he looked at his watch.

“Unless you particularly wish me to take the hounds to some covert twenty miles off,” answered the sarcastic Master.

“The fox certainly went on to Littleton,” said the elder Botsey.

“My dear fellow,” said the Captain, “I can tell you where the fox went quite as well as you can tell me. Do allow a man to know what he’s about some times.”

“It isn’t generally the custom here to take the hounds off a running fox,” continued Botsey, who subscribed 50 pounds, and did not like being snubbed.

“And it isn’t generally the custom to have fox-coverts poisoned,” said the Captain, assuming to himself the credit due to Tony’s sagacity. “If you wish to be Master of these hounds I haven’t the slightest objection, but while I’m responsible you must allow me to do my work according to my own judgment” Then the thing was understood and Captain Glomax was allowed to carry off the hounds and his ill-humour without another word.

But just at that moment, while the hounds and the master, and Lord Rufford and his friends, were turning back in their own direction, John Morton came up with his carriage and the Senator. “Is it all over?” asked the Senator.

“All over for to-day,” said Lord Rufford. “Did you catch the animal?”

“No, Mr. Gotobed; we couldn’t catch him. To tell the truth we didn’t try; but we had a nice little skurry for four or five miles.”

“Some of you look very wet” Captain Glomax and Ned Botsey were standing near the carriage; but the Captain as soon as he heard this, broke into a trot and followed the hounds.

“Some of us are very wet,” said Ned. “That’s part of the fun.”

“Oh; — that’s part of the fun. You found one fox dead and you didn’t kill another because you didn’t try. Well; Mr. Morton, I don’t think I shall take to fox hunting even though they should introduce it in Mickewa. “What’s become of the rest of the men?”

“Most of them are in the brook,” said Ned Botsey as he rode on towards Dillsborough.

Mr. Runciman was also there and trotted on homewards with Botsey, Larry, and Kate Masters. “I think I’ve won my bet,” said the hotel-keeper.

“I don’t see that at all. We didn’t find in Dillsborough Wood.”

“I say we did find in Dillsborough Wood. We found a fox though unfortunately the poor brute was dead.”

“The bet’s off I should say. What do you say, Larry?”

Then Runciman argued his case at great length and with much ability. It had been intended that the bet should be governed by the fact whether Dillsborough Wood did or did not contain a fox on that morning. He himself had backed the wood, and Botsey had been strong in his opinion against the wood. Which of them had been practically right? Had not the presence of the poisoned fox shown that he was right? “I think you ought to pay,” said Larry.

“All right,” said Botsey riding on, and telling himself that that was what came from making a bet with a man who was not a gentleman.

“He’s as unhappy about that hat,” said Runciman, “as though beer had gone down a penny a gallon.”

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43