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The pack swam at least a mile out, and only stopped when some men in a boat drove them back: a boat also put out from a ship lying at anchor near shore. I was half afraid at one time that they would be first in, but the Glenthorne boat, after a quarter of an hour's chace, flung a rope round his horns, and brought him back in triumph. Some years ago, a deer went to sea near the same place, and was actually taken by a Bristol trader, and shown in Bristol as a curiosity --a pleasant sight for the hunters on the shore. Thus ended the sport in the Exmoor country.
TUESDAY, SEPT. 3rd.-" Hawkridge." A deer, beautifully harboured by the harbourers; but for some unaccountable reason the master would not draw for it, and went away quietly to North Barton Wood. No find. Then Mountsey, and ran a hind and calf to Marsh Wood, whipped off, and at three o'clock found the stag just where he ought to have been roused at eleven: ran by Dulverton to Baron's Down; changed on a hind, which went into Haddon; another change upon a stag, and ran him about till dark. A most unsatisfactory day.
FRIDAY, 6th.-"Anstey Burrows." Stag harboured at Molland: found a hind first, then another: one went away like shot; it was thought advisable to lay on to the heel of her, and take the chance of running up to the lair of the stag: but it did not answer, and the pack soon settled on a hind, and after a turn or two in cover, went away on the western side, and flung out the whole field. Away we went after them, pounding along the roads, just catching enough glimpses of the hounds to induce perseverance; but the pace was so great that no one came up with them before Castle Hill, Lord Fortescue's seat, was reached; a turn or two amongst the fallow-deer, but the hounds were not to be tempted, and sticking close to their game, killed her at Swynnbridge, four miles from Barnstaple, not less than sixteen miles from the cover in which they found. would have been glorious, had anybody been with them; but, as I said, nobody saw it before Castle Hill. I was obliged, together with others, to put off the return to my domestic circle until the following morning.
TUESDAY, 10th." Park-end Gate, Cothelestone." The harbourer had most cheering news. Two brace of stags-so he averred-being in Cockercombe. It took the people who knew most about the deer quite by surprise to hear such a report, as it was thought that there was but one good stag in this part of the country; but no one doubted the truth of it, as Blackmore, who has been employed all his life in this business, seldom is deceived. No time was lost-at halfpast ten a move was made towards Quantock farm, where the pack was shut up: two couple of hounds were taken down the cover, and first of all put up a fox, no blame to them for running it, as it is their winter game. They were soon stopped, and in a little less than half an hour were pushing along after deer; two broke near me, one a three-year-old, which went away over the hills like wind, the other a splendid fellow, who preferred going back again into cover; I laid all the tufters on him, and as soon as they had driven him
from the wood, galloped off for the pack, notwithstanding that there was a larger deer in cover, which we had not moved. He crossed towards Ramscombe, and hearing the tufters' voices no longer, considered no doubt that he had done them, but the pack soon told him his mistake, and taking a ring round Seven Wells, crossed back to Cockercembe, to Parson's Plantation, and thence slipping away from all the field, racing pace, to Cothelestone, through the covers there in a ring, to Buncombe Bottom, and the fir plantations on Broomfield Hill, back again to Cothelestone, and down to the pond in front of Mr. Esdaile's house. Of course the commotion was great, the foot people surrounding the water; had it been otherwise I think he would have come out again directly. I jumped into the boat, upon seeing which he immediately took off again and galloped away in full view of hounds and men before the drawing-room windows. I saw he must come back to water again, he was so fat; and after ringing through the covers, and doing a little bit of enclosures, the hounds were again yelping after him in the pond. His body was very large, and his head very fair: three on top one side, two the other, but he had missed both his brays-a very common thing about here and in the Dulverton country; whilst on Exmoor, on the contrary, out of ten stags nine will have those branches. As the run was very round about, every body who had met the hounds in the morning was present at the take, and were greatly delighted at the sight. The weight of his haunch was 42lbs., and proved venison of a most delicious flavour, at least such was the decision of a party, some of whom flattered themselves that they knew what was venison.
THURSDAY, 12th.-"Crowcombe Court." Deer had been lying in Crowcombe Heathfield during the whole summer, and Blackmore was sent the previous day to see what they were, but, to my astonishment, reported that no deer had been in the cover for three weeks. I had moved two myself there exactly three weeks before, and thought it very odd that they should have decamped without any reason, as the cover had been very quiet: however, the following morning a stag was harboured at Plainsfield, just below Cockercombe, and relying upon there being no deer at the Heathfield, we went to find him. The meet was beautiful, as those that know the place can well imagine; the house not only looked the old English mansion, but the good cheer that filled the large breakfast-table of Mrs. Carew, and the gathering of red coats round it, was evidence that old English hospitality and old English sports bore sway within its walls. After walking the hounds about for the ladies' inspection, the pack again adjourned to Quantock farm. The harboured deer unfortunately had been disturbed by people picking sticks, and there did not appear to be another in cover. The pack then drew Bagborough Plantations on speculation; in fact, it is always a lottery whether you find a stag or not, unless he is harboured: this was blank, and then it was determined to try the Heathfield, and there at five o'clock was found a good stag, and two or three other deer, proving that Mr. Blackmore had been rather at the alehouse the day before, than searching the cover. It was half an hour before we got away,
by Trowbridge and Heddon, ascending the Quantock Hills, between Bicknoller and Crowcombe, across the heath to Holford, and a turn towards Dane's Burrow, where the hounds were stopped, as it had got too dark to ride to them. It was an excellent hour; and had the harbourer done his duty on the previous day, the deer would not have been let off so cheap, for at the pace the hounds went, on gaining the open, another hour of daylight would have seen him at bay. Some gentlemen from the west were left nearly forty miles from home, and sought refuge in the neighbouring hostelries. After a week's rest, the hounds met on Saturday, 21st, at Yard Down, for the Barnstaplefair Hunt, a turn-out affair generally productive of more fun than hunting. I did not join them, not much to my loss, as I afterwards heard.
The following four hunting days were given to Dulverton :—
On TUESDAY, 24th., the large cover of Hadden was drawn, and, as luck would have it, a stag was moved; for had not fortune been favourable to us, the pack of puppies which were flung into cover, ten couple I believe, and only three old hounds among them, would not have brought it about. However, in an hour or two thirty couple of hounds were roaring at a fine fellow, who almost instantly went away. He gained a good start, owing to some difficulty with some hinds and a fox; however, it all righted, and a run commenced which was destined to finish at the exact spot where finished the day's sport from Crowcombe, the meets being full twenty miles apart. The pace was excellent over Brendon hills, but slower through the stiff enclosures, and improved again towards the finish. The time was about four hours, and the line taken was as follows:-Leaving the cover by Upton, across the enclosures to Brendon hills, to Nettlecombe; a bend to Leigh Cliffs and Treborough, into the enclosures again, to Woodadvent, Orchard Wyndham, Williton, Highbridge, ascending the Quantock hills by Weacombe, across the heath to Holford, and whipping off at Dane's Burrow, from want of light. The extreme points are about eighteen miles distant from each other; the route taken, as will appear by consulting a map, by no means quite straight; it was too long, but still was very satisfactory to the hunt, as it showed that the deer cross backwards and forwards from Quantock to Haddon, and thus holds out prospects for many a future gallop from one to the other country. The hounds did not arrive at their kennel until one o'clock in the morning, and the sportsmen betook themselves to the best hospitality they could find in the neighbourhood.
FRIDAY, 27th.-On doubtful intelligence of a stag, the whole pack were thrown into Berrywood, and finding a hind first (the odds 10 to 1 on such a proceeding), of course went away with her, leaving the stag in covert. Haddon was the deer's point, and that gained, we changed more than once; one hind went well away, but trusting to a tally by a person who ought to have known a hind from a stag, the master ordered the hounds to the holloa, and a good gallop was lost, as the other deer was seen going across the country to Maundown. I believe the hounds went away from cover very late, but most of the field went away previously, as sport looked bad.
ON WEDNESDAY, Oct. 2nd, the wind was so high as to render a large, hilly cover by no means a likely place for sport, and the hounds, unable to hear each other, divided, seven couple running a hind from Haddon over Brendon towards Slowly Wood and back again, killing under Upton Wood, after a very pretty run of a couple of hours. The master had been warming a stag round and round the cover in our absence, and having dispatched our hind, an endeavour was made to kill the gentleman, but light failed.
SATURDAY, 5th.-A stag was roused at Storridge in a few minutes by two couple of tufters, and, after a turn or two in cover, the pack was laid on, and going away by Baron's Down, crossed Court Down to Marsh Bridge, almost through Dulverton to Comb and Brushford, and ran up to our deer in the water a mile or two below Ex-Bridge; then to Stuckeridge and Stoodley, after ringing about, killing near three miles from Tiverton. His antlers were remarkable, only one horn being of any height, the other stunted and misshapen from some injury.
The last meet of the season was Horner Wood, on the 8th, without exception the most picturesque cover in Somerset, and generally with deer in it; most unluckily (perhaps not "unluckily," for no regular harbourer had been sent) a stag was not found until past four o'clock; he left cover immediately, and crossed all the open between it and Brendon, going to water by Water'smeet, when darkness precluded all further endeavours to catch him. The gallop was excellent for more than an hour, the stag at one time lying fast in the heath, and jumping up in view. These hounds ought never to meet later than ten o'clock; had there been more punctuality and less drawing with the pack, at least three more stags would have been added to the list of killed during this season.
I wish I could say that deer are on the increase; I am afraid it is the contrary. Not being game (shame upon the laws that do not give to the noblest quadruped of Britain the protection afforded to a rabbit), poachers are numerous, as they have nothing to fear but an action of trespass, which few will take the trouble to bring. There seems to be some probability of a question on the game laws being mooted in the coming session, and an opportunity may thus be opened for inserting deer amongst the animals to which protection is given by law. Although there are advocates for the total abolition of game of all sorts, the Fates forbid that they should succeed in their object, and thereby put an end to this, amongst the other sports of old England. Should the deer flourish and the hunt keep its head above water for a short time longer, our country will become more known, for railroads cannot well intersect it, and the sport takes place at a period of the year when other hunting is at a stand-still. Speaking of railroads, how mournful is it for a sportsman to read in one paper of two projected lines, one to destroy the Heythrop country, another that of Mr. Drake, at the very time perhaps when he is travelling by another railroad that mars Lord Gifford's hunt! Truly, then, I rejoice when I think of our rough hills and dales, defying tunnels and such like bores, and take a pleasure in being able to subscribe myself "ONE OF WEST SOMERSET."
THE PAST RACING SEASON.
As if by way of compensation for the entire absence of royalty in 1843, Ascot was last year honoured with three crowned heads on those days which it has so long been the custom of our sovereigns to grace the heath with their presence; in the programme furnished for the august visitors there was nothing to complain of; but two or three hitches in running it off required rather awkward explanation to one who entered so bodily into the sport as the Emperor of all the Russias. The Ascot Cup, always noted for mistakes, or something worse, has much increased in annual confusion since the Vase has been added as a
finger-post to its fortunes. Within these four years Lanercost, Beeswing, and Alice Hawthorn, have, thanks to fate or fraud, made those slips t'wixt the Cup and the Vase that Derby winners are proverbial for doing at Doncaster, and given a general caution that no deductions within the eight-and-forty hours as to cause and effect should be drawn, or at any rate relied on. So quick a repetition of the Running Rein recipe was absolutely staggering, and gentlemen who, either, past, present, or to come, claimed number two, looked their superiors over with a degree of attention anything but flattering. "How singular," say some, that so many of these tricks should be tried on in one season!" "How many," ask others, "have been successfully tried on before this season?" The way, however, in which these attempts were met, and the eagerness with which in more recent cases the slightest suspicion has been seized upon, leaves little hope for the wrong or fear for the right sort. The field for this second contest for the new stakes cannot be set down as bad, and yet Old England has never been in demand. To be sure, all his races have been close at the finish; but then they have all been won, and with a good-looking horse, that promises well to be better, I must say I had rather have him in my book at twenty-five to one, than Pantasa, Young Eclipse, or any other high-tried flyer that ran in behind him. The winner of the very last Derby was a nice example of this custom of defying public running, a criterion I allow far from infallible, but still not to be treated with that contempt too often bestowed on it. The exhibitors for the Ascot Stakes, considering the locale, were but a middling lot; those among them with something like a name
* Old England, since this was written, has gone right out of the betting. I say nothing but this I will say-the distemper is a very nasty thing to get into a stable, and a very nasty thing to get out of a stable.