“Ah! looks like a Yorkshire tyke,” muttered Rake, with a volume of meaning condensed in these innocent words. “A nice, dry, cheerful sort of place to meet your cousin in, too; uncommon lively; hope it’ll raise his spirits to see all his cousins a-grinning there; his spirits don’t seem much in sorts now,” continued the ruthless inquisitor, with a glance at the “keeper’s tree” by which they stood, in the middle of dank undergrowth, whose branches were adorned with dead cats, curs, owls, kestrels, stoats, weasels, and martens. To what issue the passage of arms might have come it is impossible to say, for at that moment the colt took matters into his own hands, and bolted with a rush that even Rake could not pull in till he had had a mile-long “pipe-opener.”
“Something up there,” thought that sagacious rough-rider; “if that red-haired chap ain’t a rum lot, I’ll eat him. I’ve seen his face, too, somewhere; where the deuce was it? Cousin; yes, cousins in Queer Street, I dare say! Why should he go and meet his ‘cousin’ out in the fog there, when, if you took twenty cousins home to the servants’ hall, nobody’d ever say anything? If that Willon ain’t as deep as Old Harry——”
And Rake rode into the stable-yard, thoughtful and intensely suspicious of the rendezvous under the keeper’s tree in the out-lying coverts. He would have been more so had he guessed that Ben Davis’ red beard and demure attire, with other as efficient disguises, had prevented even his own keen eyes from penetrating the identity of Willon’s “Cousin” with the welsher he had seen thrust off the course the day before by his master.
The end of A ringing run.
“Tally-ho! is the word, clap spurs and let’s follow. The world has no charm like a rattling view-halloa!”
Is hardly to be denied by anybody in this land of fast bursts and gallant M. F. H.’s, whether they “ride to hunt,” or “hunt to ride,” in the immortal distinction of Assheton Smith’s old whip; the latter class, by the bye, becoming far and away the larger, in these days of rattling gallops and desperate breathers. Who cares to patter after a sly old dog fox, that, fat and wary, leads the pack a tedious, interminable wind, in and out through gorse and spinney, bricks himself up in a drain, and takes an hour to be dug out, dodges about till twilight, and makes the hounds pick the scent slowly and wretchedly over marsh and through water? Who would not give fifty guineas a second for the glorious thirty minutes of racing that show steam and steel over fence and fallow in a clipping rush, without a check from find to finish? So be it ever! The riding that graces the Shires, that makes Tedworth and Pytchley, the Duke’s and the Fitzwilliam’s, household words and “names beloved”—that fills Melton and Market Harborough, and makes the best flirts of the ballroom gallop fifteen miles to covert, careless of hail or