Hunting the Hounds

Trampington Hill, whose summit they had just reached as the hounds broke cover, commanded an extensive view over the adjoining vale, and, as Mr Sponge sat shading his eyes with his hands from a bright wintry sun, he thought he saw them come to a check, and afterwards bend to the left.

‘I really think,’ said he, addressing his still perspiring companion, ‘that if you were to make for that road on the left’ (pointing one out as seen between the low hedgerows in the distance), ‘we might catch them up yet.’

‘Left (puff), left (wheeze)?’ replied Mr Jogglebury Crowdey, staring about with anything but the quickness that marked his movements when he dived into Hackberry Dean.

‘Don’t you see,’ asked Sponge, tartly, ‘there’s a road by the cornstacks yonder?’ pointing them out.

‘I see,’ replied Jogglebury, blowing freely into his shirt-frill. ‘I see,’ repeated he, staring that way; ‘but I think (puff) that’s a mere (wheeze) occupation road, leading to (gasp) nowhere.’

‘Never mind, let’s try!’ exclaimed Mr Sponge, giving the rein a jerk, to get the horse into motion again; adding, ‘it’s no use sitting here, you know, like a couple of fools, when the hounds are running.’

‘Couple of (puff)!’ growled Jog, not liking the appellation, and wishing to be home with the long holly. ‘I don’t see anything (wheeze) foolish in the (puff) business.’

There they are!’ exclaimed Mr Sponge, who had kept his eye on the spot he last viewed them, and now saw the horsemen tittuping across a grass field in the easy way that distance makes very uneasy riding look. ‘Cut along!’ exclaimed he, laying into the horse’s hindquarters with his hunting-whip.

Don’t! the horse is (puff) tired,’ retorted Jog, angrily, holding the horse, instead of letting him go to Sponge’s salute.

‘Not a bit on’t!’ exclaimed Sponge; ‘fresh as paint! Spring him a bit, that’s a good fellow!’ added he.

Jog didn’t fancy being dictated to in this way, and just crawled along at his own pace, some six miles an hour, his dull phlegmatic face contrasting with the eager excitement of Mr Sponge’s countenance. If it had not been that Jog wanted to see that Leather did not play any tricks with his horse, he would not have gone a yard to please Mr Sponge. Jog might, however, have been easy on that score, for Leather had just buckled the curb-rein of the horse’s bridle round a tree in the plantations where they found him, and the animal, being used to this sort of work, had fallen-to quite contentedly upon the grass within reach.

Bilkington Pike now appeared in view, and Jog drew in as he spied it. He knew the damage: sixpence for carriages, and he doubted that Sponge would pay it.

‘It’s no use going any (wheeze) further,’ observed he, drawing up into a walk, as he eyed the red-brick gable end of the toll-house, and the formidable white gate across the road.

Tom Coppers had heard the hounds, and, knowing the hurry sportsmen are often in, had taken the precaution to lock the gate.

‘Just a leetle further!’ exclaimed Mr Sponge, soothingly, whose anxiety in looking after the hounds had prevented his seeing this formidable impediment. ‘If you would just drive up to that farmhouse on the hill,’ pointing to one about half a mile off, ‘I think we should be able to decide whether it’s worth going on or not.’

‘Well (puff), well (wheeze), well (gasp),’ pondered Jogglebury, still staring at the gate, ‘if you (puff) think it’s worth (wheeze) while going through the (gasp) gate,’ nodding towards it as he spoke.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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