A Swell Huntsman

One evening the rattle of Puff’s pole-chains, brought, in addition to the usual rush of shirt-sleeved helpers, an extremely smart, dapper little man, who might be either a jockey or a gentleman, or both, or neither. He was a clean-shaved, close-trimmed, spruce little fellow; remarkably natty about the legs -- indeed, all over. His close-napped hat was carefully brushed, and what little hair appeared below its slightly curved brim was of the pepper-and-salt mixture of -- say, fifty years. His face, though somewhat wrinkled and weatherbeaten, was bright and healthy; and there was a twinkle about his little grey eyes that spoke of quickness and watchful observation. Altogether, he was a very quick-looking little man -- a sort of man that would know what you were going to say before you had well broke ground. He wore no gills; and his neatly tied starcher had a white ground with small black spots, about the size of currants. The slight interregnum between it and his step-collared striped vest (blue stripe on a canary-coloured ground) showed three golden foxes’ heads, acting as studs to his well-washed, neatly-plaited shirt; while a sort of careless turn back of the right cuff showed similar ornaments at his wrists. His single-breasted, cut-away coat was Oxford mixture, with a thin cord binding, and very natty light kerseymere mother-o’-pearl buttoned breeches, met a pair of bright, beautifully-fitting, rose-tinted tops, that wrinkled most elegantly down to the Jersey-patterned spur. He was a remarkably well got up little man, and looked the horseman all over.

As he emerged from the stable, where he had been mastering the ins and outs of the establishment, learning what was allowed and what was not, what had not been found fault with and, therefore, might be presumed upon, and so on, he carried the smart dogskin leather glove of one hand in the other, while the fox’s head of a massive silver-mounted jockey-whip peered from under his arm. On a ring round the fox’s neck was the following inscription: ‘From Jack Bragg to his cousin Dick.’

Mr Puffington having drawn up his mail-phaeton, and thrown the ribbons to the active grooms at the horses’ heads in the true coaching style, proceeded to descend from his throne, and had reached the ground ere he was aware of the presence of a stranger. Seeing him then, he made a sort of half obeisance of a man that does not know whether he is addressing a gentleman or a servant, or, may be, a scamp, going about with a prospectus. Puff had been bit in the matter of some maps in London, and was wary, as all people ought to be, of these birds.

The stranger came sidling up with a half bow, half touch of the hat, drawling out,

‘’Sceuuse me, sir -- ’sceuuse me, sir,’ with another half bow and another half touch of the hat. ‘I’m Mister Bragg, sir -- Mister Richard Bragg, sir; of whom you have most likely heard.’

‘Bragg -- Richard Bragg,’ repeated our friend, thoughtfully, while he scanned the man’s features, and ran his sporting acquaintance through his mind’s eye. ‘Bragg, Bragg,’ repeated he, without hitting him off.

‘I was huntsman, sir, to my lord Reynard, sir,’ observed the stranger, with a touch of the hat to each ‘sir.’ ‘Thought p’r’aps you might have known his ludship, sir. Before him, sir, I held office, sir, under the Duke of Downeybird, sir, of Downeybird Castle, sir, in Downeybirdshire, sir.’

‘Indeed!’ replied Mr Puffington, with a half bow and a smile of politeness.

‘Hearing, sir, you had taken these Mangeysterne dogs, sir,’ continued the stranger, with rather a significant emphasis on the word ‘dogs’ -- ‘hearing, sir, you had taken these Mangeysterne dogs, sir, it occurred to me that possibly I might be useful to you, sir, in your new calling, sir; and if you were of the same ’pinion, sir, why, sir, I should be glad to negotiate a connection, sir.’

‘Hem! -- hem -- hem!’ coughed Mr Puffington. ‘In the way of a huntsman do you mean?’ afraid to talk of servitude to so fine a gentleman.

‘Just so,’ said Mr Bragg, with a chuck of his head -- ‘just so. The fact is, though I’m used to the grass countries, sir, and could go to the Marquis of Maneylies, sir, tomorrow, sir, I should prefer a quiet place in a somewhat inferior country, sir, to a five-days-a-week one in the best. Five and six days a-week, sir,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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