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

Though he is half an hour late at the meet, no hounds have as yet come, and he begins to curse his luck. A non-hunting day, a day that turns out to be no day for hunting purposes, begun in this way, is of all days the most melancholy. What is a man to do with himself who has put himself into his boots and breeches, and who then finds himself, by one o’clock, landed back at his starting-point without employment? Who under such circumstances can apply himself to any salutary employment? Cigars and stable-talk are all that remain to him; and it is well for him if he can refrain from the additional excitement of brandy and water.

But on the present occasion we will not presume that our friend has fallen into so deep a bathos of misfortune. At twelve o’clock Tom appears, with the hounds following slowly at his heels; and a dozen men, angry with impatience, fly at him with assurances that there has been no sign of frost since ten o’clock. “Ain’t there?” says Tom; “you look at the north sides of the banks, and see how you’d like it.” Some one makes an uncivil remark as to the north sides of the banks, and wants to know when old Jorrocks is coming. “The squire ‘ll be here time enough,” says Tom. And then there takes place that slow walking up and down of the hounds, which on such mornings always continues for half an hour. Let him who envies the condition of the man who hunts and likes it, remember that a cold thaw is going on, that our friend is already sulky with waiting, that to ride up and down for an hour and a half at a walking pace on such a morning is not an exhilarating pastime, and he will understand that the hunting man himself may have doubts as to the wisdom of his course of action.

But at last Jorrocks is there, and the hounds trot off to cover. So dull has been everything on this morning that even that is something, and men begin to make themselves happier in the warmth of the movement. The hounds go into covert, and a period of excitement is commenced. Our friend who likes hunting remarks to his neighbour that the ground is rideable. His neighbour who doesn’t like it quite so well says that he doesn’t know. They remain standing close together on a forest ride for twenty minutes, but conversation doesn’t go beyond that. The man who doesn’t like it has lit a cigar, but the man who does like it never lights a cigar when hounds are drawing.

And now the welcome music is heard, and a fox has been found. Mr. Jorrocks, gallopping along the ride with many oaths, implores those around him to hold their tongues and remain quiet. Why he should trouble himself to do this, as he knows that no one will obey his orders, it is difficult to surmise. Or why men should stand still in the middle of a large wood when they expect a fox to break, because Mr. Jorrocks swears at them, is also not to be understood. Our friend pays no attention to Mr. Jorrocks, but makes for the end of the ride, going with ears erect, and listening to the distant hounds as they turn upon the turning fox. As they turn, he returns; and, splashing through the mud of the now softened ground, through narrow tracks, with the boughs in his face, listening always, now hoping, now despairing, speaking to no one, but following and followed, he makes his way backwards and forwards through the wood, till at last, weary with wishing and working, he rests himself in some open spot, and begins to eat his luncheon. It is now past two, and it would puzzle him to say what pleasure he has as yet had out of his day’s amusement.