« VorigeDoorgaan »
"Well, let us have some, lassie, as soon as possible."
Now, those who have tasted it are aware that good bottled Devon cider is equal to, if not better than champagne ; but the cider produced from the cellar of the Red Deer was an impossibility to the thirstiest throttle that ever rode across the moors; so after a taste I declined it, and solicited some brandy.
A similar reply. "Us ant got no brandy, nor nort but some gin." "Gin! then let it be, and quickly, Sally, with hot water and a trifle of sugar, if you have either in these parts.' And be it known, there are few beverages more wholesome or more agreeable than gin, with always provided if the gin be good and used in moderation. Unfortunately, however, in this case the alcohol was not much better than the cider: where it came from I should be sorry to assert; travellers and sportsmen have no right to be particular, and so for the want of better I sat myself down on the steps of the entrance, and drank it, lighted my cigar, and calmly awaited till Boreas had discussed his oats. In the mean
time I heard Sally's voice in loud conversation with a rustic, who appeared to be her admirer, come from a distance to see her, which I insert word for word, for the benefit of my readers, who may imagine that the good people on Exmoor are given to speak pure English.
Rustic: "Well, how go'th it at home? pritty vitty, or zo, zo? How is measter?"
Sally "Oh! nort but jouring (a) and maundering (b) all day long; everything went wee-wow (c). Whan a' com'd home to dinner the dog rin'd (d) out to meet en, tweedling (e) his tail. Stand a war (ƒ), wo't?' zaid a', and geed en a voot (g) that made en youl (h) again. `Íf a' had sparables (i) in hes shoes, a' must a' lamst (j) en. Well, thort I, us shall ha' it bam bye; and zo es had, with a sissarary. I hove off the crock (k) and lade up the porridge; a' was ranish () vor es dinner, and zo skimish (m) that nort wid please en. The meat was zamzau'd (n), and boil'd to jowds (o) (and no marvel): Why did a' lacky (p) zo long, and keep it zimmering in the crock? The dumplins was claggy (9) and pindy (r); charming plum (s) bread, a' zaid, was a' clit (t) for want o' barm; the cheeze was vinnied (u) and buck'd; the cyder was keemy (v) and had a vinegar twang.
From the Red Deer to Brendon Barton-at the period I speak of, one of the pleasantest meets in the hunt, particularly to those quartered at Lynmouth-the distance is, I fancy, about eight miles. Brendon has, I fear, ceased to be (for what cause or causes I have yet to learn) a meet at all; the deer may possibly have forsaken that covert, as the woods adjacent of Watersmeet. I can only hope the good old times will come again, and the huntsman's horn once more be heard to echo in cheerful note through that truly "a valley of sweet waters."
In the meantime Boreas and self, being duly refreshed, taking time by the forelock, walked coolly forwards, enjoying the fresh air of the forest, and the honied essence of the flowery heather then in full bloom. Simonsbath was gained, and looked upon with interest as one of the best meets of the hunt, and the residence of a thorough sportsman and deer-preserver, and, from all I have heard, one who takes advantages of his position as a large and influential landholder, alike for the benefit of his estate as the residents of Exmoor generally. A few miles beyond Simonsbath I crossed a rippling brook-the merest mountain rivulet in size; yet this was the first evidence of the mighty river Exe! the estuary of which in full breath of miles I had crossed the previous morning from Exmouth to Star Cross.
"Halloa! Boreas, old boy," said I, thou must jump this mighty river! It will be well to tell our friends in the Great Babylon how we rode across the river Exe, when a-hunting wild deer we did go, on Exmoor Forest."
Thus, as if with due precaution not to wet his feet, Boreas obeyed by hopping over the little stream, which, meandering onwards through heather land, and great moors and meadows, and fruit-clad orchards, and beauteous woodlands, passing villages, towns, and a proud city, becomes at length one of the wide-world commercial waters, that, flowing onwards to the mighty ocean, conveys the wealth of England to distant shores.
Having crossed this mountain stream, and passed through a gate between two stone walls, of which there are many on the forest, probably denoting the boundary of a farm, or to secure the herds of cattle, sheep, and ponies which pluck up the sweet grass of the moor, we ascended a somewhat steep acclivity, and drawing bridle on the summit, looked on the glorious scene that presented itself. Far in the distance the blue waters of the Bristol Channel rolled towards the Atlantic, studded with many a sail, backed by the picturesque outline of the Welsh mountains. To the right, as before me, miles on miles of treeless and undulating moors, bright in the sunlight of a September day, yet in midwinter time doubtless how cheerless! stretched to the horizon; while on my left, and as it were below me, a densely-wooded ravine branched upwards towards the moor; and descending entered into a broader base on nearing the channel, where nestling, as it were, beneath the sheltering hills and luxuriant woods, and hard by the tideway, reposed the little town or village of Lynmouth.
In these woods the tufters were hard at work, cheered on by the huntsmen; while on the heathered slope beneath me, yet above the woodlands, were some two-score of anxious sportsmen, some mounted, some reclining on the heather, together with various anxious lookers-on, male and ladies fair, doubtless from Linton and Lynmouth. Ponies, horses, and even donkeys were evidently in great demand, with many a vehicle; while groups of pedestrians covered the hill-tops, in the anxious hope a stag might break.
"This looks like business," said I to Boreas. "It does," replied Boreas, cocking his left ear. So, having dismounted from the gallant animal, and lighted cigar No. 3, I did as others had done-cast myself on the flowery heather, and watched for "coming events," which it is said "cast their shadows before."
As I was thus enjoying myself, hoping with those assembled that, for the first time in my life, I might behold a wild red deer break from his native lair, an unusual stir among the field-such as tightening of girths, throwing away the ends of cigars, mounting and dismounting-caused me also to rise from my heathered couch; when, lo! there merged from the covert an individual in a cherry-coloured coat, which had once been scarlet, a velvet cap something the worse for wear, and a pair of breeks cut from the piece doubtless as meaning corduroy, but now looking like shiny brown parchment, with boots to match. This gallant horseman, and first-rate huntsman, as I subsequently found him to be, was mounted on an animal evidently well-fitted for Exmoor Forest hunting. Looking over his right shoulder, as he crammed his spurs into his Rosinante, and "tu-tuing" till the woods echoed again and again to the horn, this bright-eyed but weather-beaten sportsman soon gathered at his heels six-and-twenty couple of hounds in admirable condition, and for the most part worthy the noble animals they pursue.
"We must up and be at them," said I to Boreas, putting my foot in the stirrup, and placing myself comfortably on his solid back. "But where is the game?—has he broken from the lower ground?"
"No!" said a courteous gentleman by my side, probably seeing I was a stranger; an outlying stag is reported on the forest." Thus was I in for a splendid find, as a splendid finish.
And I may tell you, brethren of the pigskin, lovers of the noble sport, men who love the hunting field, horse, and hound, that although there are few pleasures in life, to me at least, like the crash of a pack of foxhounds close to their fox which they have forced from a gorse, the finding of a wild red deer on the open forest of Exmoor on a bright September morning is another pleasure, which causes a throbbing of the heart and an amount of glad sensations to a sportsman, which runs the former delight a very close dead-heat.
Thus on that sunny morning I followed in the wake of my friend in the corduroys and his gallant pack, as did many a lady fair with floating plume, many a lad on a good Exmoor pony-hard, believe me, to beat in the run-and boys who saw the find on donkeys, and thus on a future day will see the finish on a horse.
Over the heather we swept away for a mile, down the soft turf sheeptracks, crossed a bog, and wound round a green hill-side, when, halt! And the whole cavalcade were checked, and the hounds held to bay well in hand; for below and beneath us, not five hundred yards, behold three gallant hart, doing as we had done but anon-reclining on the heather land; chewing the cud, instead of smoking a cigar. Far off as we were, it was enough. No animal has a keener scent, or a brighter vision, or a finer sense of hearing than a deer; lucky for him that it is so, for no animal leaves a stronger scent in his wake. And although we stalked, as it were, to get nearer, they were soon on their legs; one wild look of astonishment rather than of fear, and away bounding over the moor. What a sight was that for one who sat under ten stone on a good horse, and had a gallant pack of hounds before him ready for the chase!
Not an instant was lost. One, perhaps the finest of the three, parted somewhat from the other two, and on his slot the pack was laid; on this they settled like a hive of bees, and "Forward away!" was the unanimous cry echoed over hill and dale.
From Larks Hall or Badgry the race continued, without the slightest check, to Mills Slade, at the entrance of one of the steep ravines of Brendon Barton. But disdaining to take shelter in the woodlands, or to go to bay in the waters of the Lynn, he only touched, and then continued his course to the steep woods of Culbone, which overhang the Bristol Channel, and which are impracticable for horsemen. In these woods, however, after a brief respite, he fell a victim to the eager pursuit of this gallant pack; and thus terminated a run of twelve-miles-pace throughout the best.
"He be mortal near eighteen stone, I take it," said he of the brown corduroys, taking off his cap and mopping his forehead. "Thank thee, Boreas," said I, when all was over; "thou hast carried me right well; thou shalt be well cared for, if gruel and oats are to be found in Lynmouth, with a bed of straw up to thy hocks; and thank thy master also, say I, that he lent me so gallant a steed." And then, holding the opinion that it is always best to go to the fountain head for information, I straightway made friends with "velvet-cap," and having tipped him half-a-sovereign to wash down the moorland dust, and he having gathered his pack in hand, we jogged on towards Lynmouth.
OR, GLACIAL TOILS AND SUNNY RA M BL E S.
BY CAPTAIN J. W. CLAYTON,
(Late of the 13th Light Dragoons: Author of " Ubique," and "Letters from the Nile.")
[COMMUNICATED TO, AND EDITED BY, LORD WILLIAM LENNOX.]
This anecdote, together with its interesting and neighbouring associations, accompanied by a late repast of the most weighty and mysterious of food which was ever made for the delectation of schoolboys-the vault-like appearance of the rooms, the coffin-shaped beds, the halfstarved washing-stands, the innumerable black blind doors leading to Heaven knows where, the loves of the cats and screams of the rats, besides sounds in the adjoining chamber horribly indicative of depth of slumber and weight of supper-all these were so fatal a preventive against the natural amount of repose necessary for the reinvigorating of the human frame, that even a pocket edition of "Jones on the Collects," kindly lent us for the occasion by a fellow-traveller, failed to counteract the aggravating effect. And even when the "notes by the author" were beginning to exercise their natural benign and soporific influence upon the senses, and balmy sleep was about to enfold the tortured mind, a particularly wide-awake traveller in the adjoining apartment, separated conveniently from our heads by a slight partition of lath and paper, took that opportunity of informing his companion, in the gloomiest of tones, a dreadful story of a horrible retribution having at some place or
other been inflicted upon two ruffians by a savage pig, and which has served as food for our imagination for many a succeeding day. It was as follows:
in France, a scene occurred
"At a village in the parish of which, at the time of its enactment, filled the district with horror. A farmer seated at one of the tables of an estaminet, with several other persons, agreed to sell a fat pig to a brother-farmer, and to deliver the animal upon the following Wednesday. The bargain was sealed by a few glasses of vin ordinaire, according to old custom, and the seller and buyer rose from the table. Upon leaving the cabaret, the purchaser recollected that he was particularly engaged for that same Wednesday, and stated to the seller that it would be an accommodation to him to receive the animal one day before that already fixed. To this no objection was made, and, in fact, the pig was delivered to the buyer on the Tuesday evening. Having thus disposed of the animal, the seller was returning home, when near his own door he was accosted by a man leading a bear, who begged a night's lodging for himself and his charge. The farmer, under other circumstances, would not have felt an inclination to entertain such guests; but as night was falling, and the wind chilling and frosty, and recollecting, too, that the pigsty was vacant, his good feeling prevailed, and he determined to give shelter for the night to the bear-leader and his savage companion. When they arrived at the farm, the bear was installed in the pig's place; and his master having fed and made him up for the night, retired to the farmer's cottage, where he was invited to sit down near the fire, and supplied with a bed. The night passed on; but it would appear that two of the people who had been drinking at the same table with the farmer when the terms of the bargain were agreed upon, and who were under the impression that the pig was to be sent on the Wednesday, had determined to steal the animal before it was removed. Accordingly, they repaired to the farm at night, and one of them crept into the sty, whilst the other remained on the outside of the hedge. What passed between the ill-fated intruder and the ferocious animal was only known by the pools of blood, broken bones, and fragments of flesh and hair which were found strewed upon the floor on the following morning. The other robber, feeling uneasy at not receiving the agreed signal, ventured to approach the house, and, finding all tranquil, crept nearer to the den. He called to his comrade; but all was silent. He then determined to penetrate into the sty, but had advanced but half his body, when the ferocious beast, whose thirst for blood had become extreme, threw himself upon the fresh intruder with great fury. The unfortunate man was overwhelmed, but after a short time succeeded, by an extraordinary effort, in saving himself from the rage of his enemy. He was so weakened, however, by the loss of blood from his wounds, that he was unable to fly, and he fell in the garden, where he was found by the people of the farm. He died next day in the greatest torture."
The next morning rose fresh and fair, and a breeze sang softly through the ambient air as we took our "header" into the translucent waters of the mountain lake. There, those crystal depths reflect vividly back the wild peaks of the completely-surrounding mountains by day, and the moonlit snows of Monte Rosa and the lofty stars at night. Upon crossing