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The Parkhurst Paper-Chase
by [?]

“The meet is to be at one o’clock, sharp, in the Dean’s Warren–don’t forget!”

So said Forwood, the “whipper-in” of the Parkhurst Hare and Hounds Club, to me, one March morning in the year 18–. I had no need to be reminded of the appointment; for this was the day of the “great hunt” of the year, always held by the running set at Parkhurst School to yield in interest to no other fixture of the athletic calendar.

In fine weather, and over good country, a paper-chase is one of the grandest sports ever indulged in–at least, so we thought when we were boys–and the “great hunt” was, of course, the grandest run of the year, and looked forward to, consequently, with the utmost eagerness by all lovers of running in our school.

This year, too, I had a special interest in the event, for it was my turn to run “hare”–in other words, to be, with another fellow, the object of the united pursuit of some twenty or thirty of my schoolfellows, who would glory in running me down not a whit less than I should glory in escaping them.

For some weeks previously we had been taking short trial runs, to test our pace and powers of endurance; and Birch (my fellow-“hare”) and I had more than once surveyed the course we proposed to take on the occasion of the “great hunt,” making ourselves, as far as possible, acquainted with the bearings of several streams, ploughed fields, and high walls to be avoided, and the whereabouts of certain gaps, woods, and hollows to be desired. We were glad afterwards that we had taken this precaution, as the reader will see.

I can’t say if the Parkhurst method of conducting our “hunts” was the orthodox one; I know we considered it was, as our rules were our own making, or rather a legacy left to us by a former generation of runners at the school.

We were to take, in all, a twelve miles’ course, of nearly an oval shape, six miles out and six miles home. Any amount of dodging or doubling was to be allowed to us hares, except crossing our own path. We were to get five minutes’ clear start, and, of course, were expected to drop our paper “scent” wherever we went.

Luckily for me, Birch was an old hand at running hare, and up to all sorts of dodges, so that I knew all it was needful for me to do was to husband my “wind,” and run evenly with him, leaving him to shape our course and regulate our pace.

It was a lively scene at the Dean’s Warren, when we reached it a few minutes before the appointed time that afternoon. The “pack”–that is, the twenty or thirty fellows who were to run as “hounds”–were fast assembling, and divesting themselves of everything but their light flannels. The whipper-in, conspicuous by the little bugle slung across his shoulders, and the light flag in his hand, was there in all the importance of his office; and, as usual, the doctor and a party of visitors, ladies and gentlemen, had turned out to witness the start.

“Five minutes, hares!” shouts Forwood, as Birch and I came on the spot.

We use the interval in stripping off all unnecessary apparel, and girding ourselves with our bags of “scent,” or scraps of torn-up paper, which we are to drop as we run. Then we sit and wait the moment for starting. The turf is crisp under our feet; the sun is just warm enough to keep us from shivering as we sit, and the wind just strong enough to be fresh. Altogether it is to be doubted if a real meet of real hounds to hunt real hares–a cruel and not very manly sport, after all–could be much more exciting than this is.