There is a kind of fatality in it. The fiercest and most dangerous animals generally came upon me when defenceless, as if they had a notion or an instinctive intimation of it. Thus a frightful wolf rushed upon me so suddenly, and so close, that I could do nothing but follow mechanical instinct, and thrust my fist into his open mouth. For safety’s sake I pushed on and on, till my arm was fairly in up to the shoulder. How should I disengage myself? I was not much pleased with my awkward situation—with a wolf face to face; our ogling was not of the most pleasant kind. If I withdrew my arm, then the animal would fly the more furiously upon me; that I saw in his flaming eyes. In short, I laid hold of his tail, turned him inside out like a glove, and flung him to the ground, where I left him.
The same expedient would not have answered against a mad dog, which soon after came running against me in a narrow street at St. Petersburg. Run who can, I thought; and to do this the better, I threw off my fur cloak, and was safe within doors in an instant. I sent my servant for the cloak, and he put it in the wardrobe with my other clothes. The day after I was amazed and frightened by Jack’s bawling, “For God’s sake, sir, your fur cloak is mad!” I hastened up to him, and found almost all my clothes tossed about and torn to pieces. The fellow was perfectly right in his apprehensions about the fur cloak’s madness. I saw him myself just then falling upon a fine full-dress suit, which he shook and tossed in an unmerciful manner.
The effects of great activity and presence of mind—A favourite hound described, which pups while pursuing a hare; the hare also litters while pursued by the hound—Presented with a famous horse by Count Przobossky, with which he performs many extraordinary feats.
All these narrow and lucky escapes, gentlemen, were chances turned to advantage by presence of mind and vigorous exertions, which, taken together, as everybody knows, make the fortunate sportsman, sailor, and soldier; but he would be a very blamable and imprudent sportsman, admiral, or general, who would always depend upon chance and his stars, without troubling himself about those arts which are their particular pursuits, and without providing the very best implements, which insure success. I was not blamable either way; for I have always been as remarkable for the excellency of my horses, dogs, guns, and swords, as for the proper manner of using and managing them, so that upon the whole I may hope to be remembered in the forest, upon the turf, and in the field. I shall not enter here into any detail of my stables, kennel, or armoury; but a favourite bitch of mine I cannot help mentioning to you; she was a greyhound, and I never had or saw a better. She grew old in my service, and was not remarkable for her size, but rather for her uncommon swiftness. I always coursed with her. Had you seen her you must have admired her, and would not have wondered at my predilection, and at my coursing her so much. She ran so fast, so much, and so long in my service, that she actually ran off her legs; so that, in the latter part of her life, I was under the necessity of working and using her only as a terrier, in which quality she still served me many years.