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

But now, while the flask is yet at his mouth, he hears from some distant corner a sound that tells him that the fox is away. He ought to have persevered, and then he would have been near them. As it is, all that labour of riding has been in vain, and he has before him the double task of finding the line of the hounds and of catching them when he has found it. He has a crowd of men around him; but he knows enough of hunting to be aware that the men who are wrong at such moments are always more numerous than they who are right. He has to choose for himself, and chooses quickly, dashing down a ride to the right, while a host of those who know that he is one of them who like it, follow closely at his heels, too closely, as he finds at the first fence out of the woods, when one of his young admirers almost jumps on the top of him. “Do you want to get into my pocket, sir?” he says, angrily. The young admirer is snubbed, and, turning away, attempts to make a line for himself.

But though he has been followed, he has great doubt as to his own course. To hesitate is to be lost, so he goes on, on rapidly, looking as he clears every fence for the spot at which he is to clear the next; but he is by no means certain of his course. Though he has admirers at his heels who credit him implicitly, his mind is racked by an agony of ignorance. He has got badly away, and the hounds are running well, and it is going to be a good thing; and he will not see it. He has not been in for anything good this year, and now this is his luck! His eye travels round over the horizon as he is gallopping, and though he sees men here and there, he can catch no sign of a hound; nor can he catch the form of any man who would probably be with them. But he perseveres, choosing his points as he goes, till the tail of his followers becomes thinner and thinner. He comes out upon a road, and makes the pace as good as he can along the soft edge of it. He sniffs at the wind, knowing that the fox, going at such a pace as this, must run with it. He tells himself from outward signs where he is, and uses his dead knowledge to direct him. He scorns to ask a question as he passes countrymen in his course, but he would give five guineas to know exactly where the hounds are at that moment. He has been at it now forty minutes, and is in despair. His gallant nag rolls a little under him, and he knows that he has been going too fast. And for what; for what? What good has it all done him? What good will it do him, though he should kill the beast? He curses between his teeth, and everything is vanity and vexation of spirit.

“They’ve just run into him at Boxall Springs, Mr. Jones,” says a farmer whom he passes on the road. Boxall Springs is only a quarter of a mile before him, but he wonders how the farmer has come to know all about it. But on reaching Boxall Springs he finds that the farmer was right, and that Tom is already breaking up the fox. “Very good thing, Mr. Jones,” says the squire in good humour. Our friend mutters something between his teeth and rides away in dudgeon from the triumphant master. On his road home he hears all about it from everybody. It seems to him that he alone of all those who are anybody has missed the run, the run of the season! “And killed him in the open as you may say,” says Smith, who has already twice boasted in Jones’s hearing that he had seen every turn the hounds had made. “It wasn’t in the open,” says Jones, reduced in his anger to diminish as far as may be the triumph of his rival.

Such is the fate, the too frequent fate of the man who hunts and does like it.