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The Fox Hunt
by [?]

The next day was that of the hunt and we motored out to the North Shore Hunt Club. It was a splendid day and the ride was just enough to put an edge on the meet that was to follow.

We pulled up at last before the rambling colonial building which the Hunt Club boasted as its home. Mrs. Brackett was waiting for us already with horses from the Brackett stables.

“I’m so glad you came,” she greeted us aside. “Gloria is here–under protest. That young man over there, talking to her, is Ritter Smith. ‘Rhine’ Brown, as they call him, was about a moment ago–oh, yes, there he is, coming over on that chestnut mare to talk to them. I wanted you to see them here. After the hunt, if you care to, I think you might go over to the Cabaret Rouge out here. You might find out something.”

She was evidently quite proud of her handsome daughter and that anything should come up to smirch her name cut her deeply.

The Hunt Club was a swagger organization, even in these degenerate days when farmers will not tolerate broken fences and trampled crops, and when democratic ideas interfere sadly with the follies of the rich. In a cap with a big peak, a scarlet hunting coat and white breeches with top boots, Brackett himself made a striking figure of M. F. H.

There were thirty or forty in the field, the men in silk hats. For the most part one could not see that the men treated Gloria much differently. But it was evident that the women did. In fact the coldness even extended to her mother, who would literally have been frozen out if it had not been for her quasi-official position. I could see now that it was also a fight for Mrs. Brackett’s social life.

As we watched Gloria, we could see that Franconi was hovering around, unsuccessfully trying to get an opportunity to say a word to her alone. Just before we were off a telegram came to her, which she read and hastily stuffed into a pocket of her riding habit.

But that was all that happened and I fell to studying the various types of human nature, from the beginner who rode very hard and very badly and made himself generally odious to the M. F. H., to the old seasoned hunter who talked of the old days of real foxes and how he used to know all the short cuts to the coverts.

It was a keen, crisp day. Already a man had been over the field pulling along the ground a little bag of aniseed, and now the hunt was about to start.

Noses down, sterns feathering zigzag over the ground, sniffing earth and leaves and grass, the hounds were brought up. One seemed to get a good whiff of the trail and lifted his head with a half yelp, half whine, high pitched, frenzied, never-to-be-forgotten. Others joined in the music. “Gone away!” sounded a huntsman as if there were a real fox. We were off after them. Drag hounds, however, for the most part run mute and very fast, so that that picturesque feature was missing. But the light soil and rail fences of Long Island were ideal for drag hunting. Nor was it so easy as it seemed to follow. Also there was the spice of danger, risk to the hunters, the horses and the dogs.

We went for four or five miles. Then there was a check for the stragglers to come up. Some had fresh mounts, and all of us were glad of the breathing space while the M. F. H. “held” the hounds.

While we waited we saw that Mrs. Brackett was riding about quickly, as if something were on her mind. A moment she stopped to speak to her husband, then galloped over to us.