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   Chapter 13 GONE AWAY!

Ask Mamma By R. S. Surtees Characters: 23074

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


SEE! a sudden thrill shoots through the field, though not a hound has spoken; no, not even a whimper been heard. It is Speed's new cap rising from the dip of the ground at the low end of the cover, and now having seen the fox "right well away," as he says, he gives such a ringing view halloa as startles friend Echo, and brings the eager pack pouring and screeching to the cry-

"Tweet! tweet! tweet!" now goes cantering Dicky's superfluous horn, only he doesn't like to be done out of his blow, and thinks the "fut people" may attribut' the crash to his coming.

All eyes are now eagerly strained to get a view of old Reynard, some for the pleasure of seeing him, others to speculate upon whether they will have to take the stiff stake and rise in front, or the briar-tangled boundary fence below, in order to fulfil the honourable obligation of going into every field with the hounds. Others, again, who do not acknowledge the necessity, and mean to take neither, hold their horses steadily in hand, to be ready to slip down Cherry-tree Lane, or through West Hill fold-yard, into the Billinghurst turnpike, according as the line of chase seems to lie.

"Talli-ho!" cries the Flying Hatter, as he views the fox whisking his brush as he rises the stubble-field over Fawley May Farm, and in an instant he is soaring over the boundary-fence to the clamorous pack just as his lordship takes it a little higher up, and lands handsomely in the next field. Miss de Glancey then goes at it in a canter, and clears it neatly, while Billy Pringle's horse, unused to linger, after waiting in vain for an intimation from his rider, just gathers himself together, and takes it on his own account, shooting Billy on to his shoulder.

"He's off! no, he's on; he hangs by the mane!" was the cry of the foot people, as Billy scrambled back into his saddle, which he regained with anything but a conviction that he could sit at the jumps. Worst of all, he thought he saw Miss de Glancey's shoulders laughing at his failure.

The privileged ones having now taken their unenviable precedence, the scramble became general, some going one way, some another, and the recent frowning fences are soon laid level with the fields.

A lucky lane running parallel with the line, along which the almost mute pack were now racing with a breast-high scent, relieved our friend Billy from any immediate repetition of the leaping inconvenience, though he could not hear the clattering of horses' hoofs behind him without shuddering at the idea of falling and being ridden over. It seemed very different he thought to the first run, or to Hyde Park; people were all so excitcd, instead of riding quietly, or for admiration, as they do in the park. Just as Billy was flattering himself that the leaping danger was at an end, a sudden jerk of his horse nearly chucked him into Imperial John's pocket, who happened to be next in advance. The fox had been headed by the foot postman between Hinton and Sambrook; and Dicky Boggledike, after objurgating the astonished man, demanding, "What the daval business he had there?" had drawn his horse short across the lane, thus causing a sudden halt to those in the rear.

The Flying Hatter and the Damper pressing close upon the pack as usual, despite the remonstrance of Gameboy Green and others, made them shoot up to the far-end of the enclosure, where they would most likely have topped the fence but for Swan and Speed getting round them, and adding the persuasion of their whips to the entreaties of Dicky's horn. The hounds sweep round to the twang, lashing and bristling with excitement.

"Yo doit!" cries Dicky, as Sparkler and Pilgrim feather up the lane, trying first this side, then that. Sparkler speaks! "He's across the lane."

"Hoop! hoop! tallio! tallio!" cries Dicky cheerily, taking off his cap, and sweeping it in the direction the fox has gone, while his lordship, who has been bottling up the vial of his wrath, now uncorks it as he gets the delinquents within hearing.

"Thank you, Mr. Hicks, for pressing on my hounds! Much obleged to you, Mr. Hicks, for pressing on my hounds! Hang you, Mr. Hicks, for pressing on my hounds!" So saying, his lordship gathered Rob Roy together, and followed Mr. Boggledike through a very stiff bullfinch that Dicky would rather have shirked, had not the eyes of England been upon him.

S-w-ic-h! Dicky goes through, and the vigorous thorns close again like a rat-trap.

"Allow me, my lord!" exclaims Imperial John from behind, anxious to be conspicuous.

"Thank 'e, no," replied his lordship, carelessly thinking it would not do to let Miss de Glancey too much into the secrets of the hunting field. "Thank 'e, no," repeated he, and ramming his horse well at it, he gets through with little more disturbance of the thorns than Dicky had made. Miss de Glancey comes next, and riding quietly up the bank, she gives her horse a chuck with the curb and a touch with the whip that causes him to rise well on his haunches and buck over without injury to herself, her hat, or her habit. Imperial John was nearly offering his services to break the fence for her, but the "S-i-r-r! do you mean to insult me?" still tingling in his ears, caused him to desist. However he gives Billy a lift by squashing through before him, whose horse then just rushed through it as before, leaving Billy to take care of himself. A switched face was the result, the pain, however, being far greater than the disfigurement.

While this was going on above, D'Orsay Davis, who can ride a spurt, has led a charge through a weaker place lower down; and when our friend had ascertained that his eyes were still in his head, he found two distinct lines of sportsmen spinning away in the distance as if they were riding a race. Added to this, the pent-up party behind him having got vent, made a great show of horsemanship as they passed.

"Come along!" screamed one.

"Look alive!" shouted another.

"Never say die!" cried a third, though they were all as ready to shut up as our friend.

Billy's horse, however, not being used to stopping, gets the bit between his teeth, and scuttles away at a very overtaking pace, bringing him sufficiently near to let him see Gameboy Green and the Flying Hatter leading the honourable obligation van, out of whose extending line now a red coat, now a green coat, now a dark coat drops in the usual "had enough" style.

In the ride-cunning, or know-the-country detachment, Miss de Glancey's flaunting habit, giving dignity to the figure and flowing elegance to the scene, might be seen going at perfect ease beside the noble Earl, who from the higher ground surveys Gameboy Green and the Hatter racing to get first at each fence, while the close-packing hounds are sufficiently far in advance to be well out of harm's way.

"C-a-a-tch 'em, if you can!" shrieks his lordship, eyeing their zealous endeavours.

"C-a-a-tch 'em, if you can!" repeats he, laughing, as the pace gets better and better, scarce a hound having time to give tongue.

"Yooi, over he goes!" now cries his lordship, as a spasmodic jerk of the leading hounds, on Alsike water meadow, turns Trumpeter's and Wrangler's heads toward the newly widened and deepened drain-cut, and the whole pack wheel to the left. What a scramble there is to get over! Some clear it, some fall back, while some souse in and out.

Now Gameboy, seeing by the newly thrown out gravel the magnitude of the venture, thrusts down his hat firmly on his brow, while Hicks gets his chesnut well by the head, and hardening their hearts they clear it in stride, and the Damper takes soundings for the benefit of those who come after. What a splash he makes!

And now the five-and-thirty years master of "haryers" without a subscription coming up, seeks to save the credit of his quivering-tailed grey by stopping to help the discontented Damper out of his difficulty, whose horse coming out on the wrong side affords them both a very fair excuse for shutting up shop.

The rest of the detachment, unwilling to bathe, after craning at the cut, scuttle away by its side down to the wooden cattle-bridge below, which being crossed, the honourable obligationers and the take-care-of-their-neckers are again joined in common union. It is, however, no time to boast of individual feats, or to inquire for absent friends, for the hounds still press on, though the pace is not quite so severe as it was. They are on worse soil, and the scent does not serve them so well. It soon begins to fail, and at length is carried on upon the silent system, and looks very like failing altogether.

Mr. Boggledike, who has been riding as cunning as any one, now shows to the front, watching the stooping pack with anxious eye, lest he should have to make a cast over fences that do not quite suit his convenience.

"G-e-ntly, urryin'! gently!" cries he, seeing that a little precipitancy may carry them off the line. "Yon cur dog has chased the fox, and the hounds are puzzled at the point where he has left him."

"Ah, sarr, what the daval business have you out with a dog on such an occasion as this?" demands Dicky of an astonished drover who thought the road was as open to him as to Dicky.

"O, sar! sar! you desarve to be put i' the lock-up," continues Dicky, as the pack now divide on the scent.

"O, sar! sar! you should be chaasetised!" added he, shaking his whip at the drover, as he trotted on to the assistance of the pack.

The melody of the majority however recalls the cur-ites, and saves Dicky from the meditated assault.

While the brief check was going on, his lordship was eyeing Miss de Glancey, thinking of all the quiet captivating women he had ever seen, she was the most so. Her riding was perfection, and he couldn't conceive how it was that he had ever entertained any objection to sports-women. It must have been from seeing some clumsy ones rolling about who couldn't ride; and old Binks's chance at that moment was not worth one farthing.

"Where's Pringle?" now asked his lordship, as the thought of Binks brought our hero to his recollection.

"Down," replied Miss de Glancey carelessly, pointing to the ground with her pretty amethyst-topped whip.

"Down, is he!" smiled the Earl, adding half to himself and half to her, "thought he was a mull'."

Our friend indeed has come to grief. After pulling and hauling at his horse until he got him quite savage, the irritated animal, shaking his head as a terrier shakes a rat, ran blindfold into a bullfinch, shooting Billy into a newly-made manure-heap beyond. The last of the "harryer" men caught his horse, and not knowing who he belonged to, just threw the bridle-rein over the next gatepost, while D'Orsay Davis, who had had enough, and was glad of an excuse for stopping, pulls up to assist Billy out of his dirty dilemma.

Augh, what a figure he was!

But see! Mr. Boggledike is hitting off the scent, and the astonished drover is spurring on his pony to escape the chasetisement Dicky has promised him.

At this critical moment, Miss de Glancey's better genius whispered her to go home. She had availed herself of the short respite to take a sly peep at herself in a little pocket-mirror she carried in her saddle, and found she was quite as much heated as was becoming or as could be ventured upon without detriment to her dress. Moreover, she was not quite sure but that one of her frizettes was coming out.

So now when the hounds break out in fresh melody, and the Flying Hatter and G

ameboy Green are again elbowing to the front, she sits reining in her steed, evidently showing she is done.

"Oh, come along!" exclaimed the Earl, looking back for her. "Oh, come along," repeated he, waving her onward, as he held in his horse.

There was no resisting the appeal, for it was clear he would come back for her if she did, so touching her horse with the whip, she is again cantering by his side.

"I'd give the world to see you beat that impudent ugly hatter," said he, now pointing Hicks out in the act of riding at a stiff newly-plashed fence before his hounds were half over.

And his lordship spurred his horse as he spoke with a vigour that spoke the intensity of his feelings.

The line of chase then lay along the swiftly flowing Arrow banks and across Oxley large pastures, parallel with the Downton bridle-road, along which Dicky and his followers now pounded; Dicky hugging himself with the idea that the fox was making for the main earths on Bringwood moor, to which he knew every yard of the country.

And so the fox was going as straight and as hard as ever he could, but as ill luck would have it, young Mr. Nailor, the son of the owner of Oxley pastures, shot at a snipe at the west corner of the large pasture just as pug entered at the east, causing him to shift his line and thread Larchfield plantations instead of crossing the pasture, and popping down Tillington Dean as he intended.

Dicky had heard the gun, and the short turn of the hounds now showing him what had happened, he availed himself of the superiority of a well-mounted nobleman's huntsman in scarlet over a tweed-clad muffin-capped shooter, for exclaiming at the top of his voice as he cantered past, horn in hand,

"O ye poachin' davil, what business 'ave ye there!"

"O ye nasty sneakin' snarin' ticket-o'-leaver, go back to the place from whance you came!" leaving the poor shooter staring with astonishment.

A twang of the horn now brings the hounds-who have been running with a flinging catching side-wind scent on to the line, and a full burst of melody greets the diminished field, as they strike it on the bright grass of the plantation.

"For-rard! for-rard!" is the cry, though there isn't a hound but what is getting on as best as he can.

The merry music reanimates the party, and causes them to press on their horses with rather more freedom than past exertions warrant.

Imperial John's is the first to begin wheezing, but his Highness feeling him going covers a retreat of his hundred-and-fifty-guineas-worth, as he hopes he will be, under shelter of the plantation.

****

"I think the 'atter's oss has about 'ad enough," now observes Dicky to his lordship, as he holds open the bridle-gate at the end of the plantation into the Benington Lane for his lordship and Miss de Glancey to pass.

"Glad of it," replied the Earl, thinking the Hatter would not be able to go home and boast how he had cut down the Tantivy men and hung them up to dry.

"Old 'ard, one moment!" now cries Dicky, raising his right hand as the Hatter comes blundering through the quickset fence into the hard lane, his horse nearly alighting on his nose.

"Old 'ard, please!" adds he, as the Hatter spurs among the road-stooping pack.

"Hooick to Challenger! Hooick to Challenger!" now holloas Dicky, as Challenger, after sniffing up the grassy mound of the opposite hedge, proclaims that the fox is over; and Dicky getting his horse short by the head, slips behind the Hatter's horse's tail for his old familiar friend the gap in the corner, while the Hatter gathers his horse together to fulfil the honourable obligation of going with the hounds.

"C-u-r-m up!" cries he, with an obligato accompaniment of the spur rowels, which the honest beast acknowledges by a clambering flounder up the bank, making the descent on his head on the field side that he nearly executed before. The Hatter's legs perform a sort of wands of a mill evolution.

"Not hurt, I hope!" holloas the Earl, who with Miss de Glancey now lands a little above, and seeing the Hatter rise and shake himself he canters on, giving Miss de Glancey a touch on the elbow, and saying with a knowing look, "That's capital! get rid of him, leggings and all!"

His lordship having now seen the last of his tormentors, has time to look about him a little.

"Been a monstrous fine run," observes he to the lady, as they canter together behind the pace-slackening pack.

"Monstrous," replies the lady, who sees no fun in it at all.

"How long has it been?" asks his lordship of Swan, who now shows to the front as a whip-aspiring huntsman is wont to do.

"An hour all but five minutes, my lord," replies the magnifier, looking at his watch. "No-no-an hour 'zactly, my lord," adds he, trotting on-restoring his watch to his fob as he goes.

"An hour best pace with but one slight check-can't have come less than twelve miles," observes his lordship, thinking it over.

"Indeed," replied Miss de Glancey, wishing it was done.

"Grand sport fox-hunting, isn't it?" asked his lordship, edging close up to her.

"Charming!" replied Miss de Glancey, feeling her failing frizette.

The effervescence of the thing is now about over, and the hounds are reduced to a very plodding pains-taking pace. The day has changed for the worse, and heavy clouds are gathering overhead. Still there is a good holding scent, and as the old saying is, a fox so pressed must stop at last, the few remaining sportsmen begin speculating on his probable destination, one backing him for Cauldwell rocks, another for Fulford woods, a third for the Hawkhurst Hills.

"'Awk'urst 'ills for a sovereign!" now cries Dicky, hustling his horse, as, having steered the nearly mute pack along Sandy-well banks, Challenger and Sparkler strike a scent on the track leading up to Sorryfold Moor, and go away at an improving pace.

"'Awk'urst 'ills for a fi'-pun note!" adds he, as the rest of the pack score to cry.

"Going to have rine!" now observes he, as a heavy drop beats upon his up-turned nose. At the same instant a duplicate drop falls upon Miss de Glancey's fair cheek, causing her to wish herself anywhere but where she was.

Another, and another, and another, follow in quick succession, while the dark, dreary moor offers nothing but the inhospitable freedom of space. The cold wind cuts through her, making her shudder for the result. "He's for the hills!" exclaims Gameboy Green, still struggling on with a somewhat worse-for-wear looking steed.

"He's for the hills!" repeats he, pointing to a frowning line in the misty distance.

At the same instant his horse puts his foot in a stone-hole, and Gameboy and he measure their lengths on the moor.

"That comes of star-gazing," observed his lordship, turning his coat-collar up about his ears. "That comes of star-gazing," repeats he, eyeing the loose horse scampering the wrong way.

"We'll see no more of him," observed Miss de Glancey, wishing she was as well out of it as Green.

"Not likely, I think," replied his lordship, seeing the evasive rush the horse gave, as Speed, who was coming up with some tail hounds, tried to catch him.

The heath-brushing fox leaves a scent that fills the painfully still atmosphere with the melody of the hounds, mingled with the co-beck-co-beck-co-beck of the startled grouse. There is a solemn calm that portends a coming storm. To Miss de Clancey, for whom the music of the hounds has no charms, and the fast-gathering clouds have great danger, the situation is peculiarly distressing. She would stop if she durst, but on the middle of a dreary moor how dare she.

An ominous gusty wind, followed by a vivid flash of lightning and a piercing scream from Miss de Glancey, now startled the Earl's meditations.

"Lightning!" exclaimed his lordship, turning short round to her assistance. "Lightning in the month of November-never heard of such a thing!"

But ere his lordship gets to Miss de Glancey's horse, a most terrific clap of thunder burst right over head, shaking the earth to the very centre, silencing the startled hounds, and satisfying his lordship that it was lightning.

Another flash, more vivid if possible than the first, followed by another pealing crash of thunder, more terrific than before, calls all hands to a hurried council of war on the subject of shelter.

"We must make for the Punch-bowl at Rockbeer," exclaims General Boggledike, flourishing his horn in an ambiguous sort of way, for he wasn't quite sure he could find it.

"You know the Punch-bowl at Rockbeer!" shouts he to Harry Swan, anxious to have some one on whom to lay the blame if he went wrong.

"I know it when I'm there," replied Swan, who didn't consider it part of his duty to make imaginary runs to ground for his lordship.

"Know it when you're there, man," retorted Dicky in disgust; "why any----" the remainder of his sentence being lost in a tremendously illuminating flash of lightning, followed by a long cannonading, reverberating roll of thunder.

Poor Miss de Glancey was ready to sink into the earth.

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Original Size

"Elope, hounds! elope!" cried Dicky, getting his horse short by the head, and spurring him into a brisk trot. "Elope, hounds! elope!" repeated he, setting off on a speculative cast, for he saw it was no time for dallying.

And now,

"From cloud to cloud the rending lightnings rage;

Till in the furious elemental war

Dissolved, the whole precipitated mass,

Unbroken floods and solid torrents pour."

Luckily for Dicky, an unusually vivid flash of lightning so lit up the landscape as to show the clump of large elms at the entrance to Rockbeer; and taking his bearings, he went swish swash, squirt spurt, swish swash, squirt spurt, through the spongy, half land, half water moor, at as good a trot as he could raise. The lately ardent, pressing hounds follow on in long-drawn file, looking anything but large or formidable. The frightened horses tucked in their tails, and looked fifty per cent. worse for the suppression. The hard, driving rain beats downways, and sideways, and frontways, and backways-all ways at once. The horses know not which way to duck, to evade the storm. In less than a minute Miss de Glancey is as drenched as if she had taken a shower-bath. The smart hat and feathers are annihilated; the dubious frizette falls out, down comes the hair; the bella-donna-inspired radiance of her eyes is quenched; the Crinoline and wadding dissolve like ice before the fire; and ere the love-cured Earl lifts her off her horse at the Punch-bowl at Rockbeer, she has no more shape or figure than an icicle. Indeed she very much resembles one, for the cold sleet, freezing as it fell, has encrusted her in a rich coat of ice lace, causing her saturated garments to cling to her with the utmost pertinacity. A more complete wreck of a belle was, perhaps, never seen.

"What an object!" inwardly ejaculated she, as Mrs. Hetherington, the landlady, brought a snivelling mould candle into the cheerless, fireless little inn-parlour, and she caught a glimpse of herself in the-at best-most unbecoming mirror. What would she have given to have turned back!

And as his lordship hurried up stairs in his water-logged boots, he said to himself, with a nervous swing of his arm, "I was right!-women have no business out hunting." And the Binks chance improved amazingly.

The further denouement of this perishing day will be gleaned from the following letters.

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