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The Man Who Hunts And Does Like It
by [?]

The man who hunts and does like it is an object of keen envy to the man who hunts and doesn’t; but he, too, has his own miseries, and I am not prepared to say that they are always less aggravating than those endured by his less ambitious brother in the field. He, too, when he comes to make up his account, when he brings his hunting to book and inquires whether his whistle has been worth its price, is driven to declare that vanity and vexation of spirit have been the prevailing characteristics of his hunting life. On how many evenings has he returned contented with his sport? How many days has he declared to have been utterly wasted? How often have frost and snow, drought and rain, wind and sunshine, impeded his plans? for to a hunting man frost, snow, drought, rain, wind and sunshine, will all come amiss. Then, when the one run of the season comes, he is not there! He has been idle and has taken a liberty with the day; or he has followed other gods and gone with strange hounds. With sore ears and bitter heart he hears the exaggerated boastings of his comrades, and almost swears that he will have no more of it. At the end of the season he tells himself that the season’s amusement has cost him five hundred pounds; that he has had one good day, three days that were not bad, and that all the rest have been vanity and vexation of spirit. After all, it may be a question whether the man who hunts and doesn’t like it does not have the best of it.

When we consider what is endured by the hunting man the wonder is that any man should like it. In the old days of Squire Western, and in the old days too since the time of Squire Western, the old days of thirty years since, the hunting man had his hunting near to him. He was a country gentleman who considered himself to be energetic if he went out twice a week, and in doing this he rarely left his house earlier for that purpose than he would leave it for others. At certain periods of the year he if ho went out twice a he rarely left his house than he would leave it periods of the year he would, perhaps, be out before dawn; but then the general habits of his life conduced to early rising; and his distances were short. If he kept a couple of horses for the purpose he was well mounted, and these horses were available for other uses. He rode out and home, jogging slowly along the roads, and was a martyr to no ambition. All that has been changed now. The man who hunts and likes it, either takes a small hurting seat away from the comforts of his own home, or he locates himself miserably at an inn, or he undergoes the purgatory of daily journeys up and down from London, doing that for his hunting which no consideration of money-making would induce him to do for his business. His hunting requires from him everything, his time, his money, his social hours, his rest, his sweet morning sleep; nay, his very dinners have to be sacrificed to this Moloch!

Let us follow him on an ordinary day. His groom comes to his bed-chamber at seven o’clock, and tells him that it has frozen during the night. If he be a London man, using the train for his hunting, he knows nothing of the frost, and does not learn whether the day be practicable or not till he finds himself down in the country. But we will suppose our friend to be located in some hunting district, and accordingly his groom visits him with tidings. “Is it freezing now?” he asks from under the bedclothes. And even the man who does like it at such moments almost wishes that the answer should be plainly in the affirmative. Then swiftly again to the arms of Morpheus he might take himself, and ruffle his temper no further on that morning! He desires, at any rate, a decisive answer. To be or not to be as regards that day’s hurting is what he now wants to know. But that is exactly what the groom cannot tell him. “It’s just a thin crust of frost, sir, and the s’mometer is a standing at the pint.” That is the answer which the man makes, and on that he has to come to a decision! For half an hour he lies doubting while his water is getting cold, and then sends for his man again. The thermometer is still standing at the point, but the man has tried the crust with his heel and found it to be very thin. The man who hunts and likes it scorns his ease, and resolves that he will at any rate persevere. He tumbles into his tub, and a little before nine comes out to his breakfast, still doubting sorely whether or no the day “will do.” There he, perhaps, meets one or two others like himself, and learns that the men who hunt and don’t like it are still warm in their beds. On such mornings as these, and such mornings are very many, the men who hunt and do not like it certainly have the best of it. The man who hunts and does like it takes himself out to some kitchen-garden or neighbouring paddock, and kicks at the ground himself. Certainly there is a crust, a very manifest crust. Though he puts up in the country, he has to go sixteen miles to the meet, and has no means of knowing whether or no the hounds will go out. “Jorrocks always goes if there’s a chance,” says one fellow, speaking of the master. “I don’t know,” says our friend; “he’s a deal slower at it than he used to be. For my part, I wish Jorrocks would go; he’s getting too old.” Then he bolts a mutton chop and a couple of eggs hurriedly, and submits himself to be carried off in the trap.