The Find and the Finish

EPPING HUNT, in its most palmy days could not equal the exhibition that now took place. Some of the more lively of the horses, tired of waiting, perhaps pinched by the cold, for most of them were newly clipped, evinced their approbation of the more lively sundry squeals and capers, which being caught by others in the neighbourhood, the infection quickly spread, and in less than a minute there was such a scene of rocking, and rearing, and kicking, and prancing, and neighing, and shooting over heads, and rolling over tails, and hanging on by manes, mingled with such screamings from the ladies in the flys, and such hearty-sounding kicks against splash boards and fly bottoms, from sundry of the vicious ones in harness, as never was witnessed. One gentleman, in a bran new scarlet, mounted on a flourishing pie-bald, late the property of Mr Batty, stood pawing and fighting the air, as if in the saw-dust circle, his unfortunate rider clinging round his neck, expecting to have the beast back over upon him. Another little wiry chestnut, with abundance of rings, racing martingale, and tackle generally, just turned tail on the crowd and ran off home as hard as ever he could lay legs to the ground; while a good steady bay cob, with a barrel like a butt, and a tail like a hearth-brush, having selected the muddiest, dirtiest place he could find, deliberately proceeded to lie down, to the horror of his rider, Captain Greatgun, of the royal navy, who, feeling himself suddenly touch mother earth, thought he was going to be swallowed up alive, and was only awoke from the delusion by the shouts of the foot people, telling him to get clear of his horse before he began to roll.

Hercules would fain have joined the truant set, and, at the first commotion, up went his great back, and down went his ears, with a single lash out behind that meant mischief, but Mr Sponge was on the alert, and just gave him such a dig with his spurs as restored order, without exposing anything that anybody could take notice of.

The sudden storm was quickly lulled. The spilt ones scrambled up; the loose riders got tighter hold of their horses; the screaming fair ones sunk languidly in their carriages; and the late troubled ocean of equestrians fell into irregular line en route for the cover.

Bump, bump, bump; trot, trot, trot; jolt, jolt, jolt; shake, shake, shake; and carriages and cavalry got to Ribston Wood somehow or other. It is a long cover on a hill-side, from which parties, placing themselves in the green valley below, can see hounds ‘draw,’ that is to say, run through with their noses to the ground, if there are any men foolish enough to believe that ladies care for seeing such things. However, there they were.

Eu leu, in!’ cries old Tom, with a wave of his arm, finding he can no longer restrain the ardour of the pack as they approach, and thinking to save his credit, by appearing to direct. ‘Eu leu, in!’ repeats he, with a heartier cheer, as the pack charge the rotten fence with a crash that echoes through the wood. The whips scuttle off to their respective points, gentlemen feel their horses’ girths, hats are thrust firmly on the head, and the sherry and brandy flasks begin to be drained.

Tally ho!’ cries a countryman at the top of the wood, hoisting his hat on a stick. At the magic sound, fear comes over some, joy over others, intense anxiety over all. What commotion! What indecision! What confusion! ‘Which way? -- Which way?’ is the cry.

Twang, twang, twang,’ goes old Tom’s horn at the top of the wood, whither he seems to have flown, so quick has he got there.

A dark-coated gentleman on a good family horse solves the important question -- ‘Which way?’ -- by diving at once into the wood, crashing along till he comes to a crossroad that leads to the top, when the scene opening to ‘open fresh fields and pastures new,’ discloses divers other sections struggling up in long drawn files, following other leaders, all puffing, and wheezing and holding on by the manes, many feeling as if they had had enough already -- ‘Quick!’ is the word, for the tail-hounds are flying the fence out of the first field over the body of the pack, which are running almost mute at best pace beyond, looking a good deal smaller than is agreeable to the eyes of a sportsman.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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