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together over another sneaker with,' squire-yes, observe me, with,' squireand, ere the night waned, it forcibly occurred to us that something might accrue to our respectable firm, if, leaving the Great Gauge to project, we should proceed at once to business, and get up a line ourselves. This great question unanimously agreed on, we retired, and slept soundly on the subject ; and the next morning, after a substantial breakfast, having in no manner deviated from the previous night's decision, we requested the opinion of Mr. Hawkseye, R.E., the celebrated engineer, who without hesitation took up a map of the county, and with broad-nibbed pen laid down a narrow-gauged line which will run right through the east end of your park, sweeping away, I regret to be obliged to notice, one of your lodges and sundry fine
old oaks, passing, I very much fear, through the centre of your breeding paddocks, but putting several thousand pounds into your pocket. This settled, Bagall drew up a prospectus with much intelligence and conciseness, selecting in his imagination-and forwarding to the printer with an assurance of their acquiescence—several influential names, among whom you
number as a director-of course adding those of the firm as legal advisers, Hawkseye as engineer, and Dick Sawdust, Graball's wife's cousin, as secretary. This speedily arranged, we dined together at Richmond-turtle, turbot, venison, a few extra trifles, chateau-margot, and so forth—naturally putting the outlay down to the account of the company—to be a mere trifle-nine thirteen—including waiters and sneakers. And here I am as county inspector-general, canvasser, and inquirer soother of landlords and so forth, at your command.
As I heard my dear old parent subsequently admit, in his first moment of anger he could scarcely refrain from taking up the poker and beating the rascal's brains out, and then he laughed, and added, that his skull might have been too thick and hard even for a poker ; and then he bethought himself to throw him out of window, but that might have injured Mary's flower-beds ; or have kicked him out of the room. But Squire Western was a gentleman—which comprises innumerable excellencies and noble feelings; moreover, he was benevolence and gentle courteousness to excess.
So he commanded himself in a great measure, only exclaiming
“Then, sir, whatever you may call yourself, the sooner you return to your insolent employers the better. Tell them, that for three hundred years my ancestors have lived respected at Brooklands, loved by their neighbours and friends, and respected by their tenants, without law or lawyers, engineers or railways ; that hitherto I have considered an Englishman's house his castle ; and if any of your people put a foot on my land, my servants will have orders summarilly' to eject themeither over the gates or into the lake. It is not my custom to treat a stranger with discourtesy or inhospitality; therefore, I beg you will take refreshment—and then the sooner you leave Brooklands the better. And, mark me! should my name appear in print as a director of your scheme, hateful as law is to me, I will sell my whole estate rather than not effectually punish you. So take warning.
And now excuse me, Mr. Bagall, Payne, or Snareall—whichever you may think fit to call yourself, as a member of so respectable a firm— I am going to Low Bottom Copse with my dogs, to look for cocks—better pastime, I imagine, than concocting railways."
CHAPTER XVII. “Going to Low Bottom Copse with his dogs, to look for cocks !" sneeringly exclaimed Snareall, as the squire left the library ; "going to Low Bottom-devil! Degenerate human nature-vulgar sporting habits---wading through mud and mire, wood and brake, to kill a few harmless birds, which can be bought for money in the market, and this is termed sport! Alas! what frivolity and weakness at the very moment I come to offer thousands for the making a mere footpath through his property! Poor benighted old man ! his tastes are sufficiently displayed on these walls. Here a mare with a foal by her foot by ?--that picture alone would fetch hundreds ; and another, a sporting piece by Incedars, doubtless valued at another thousand, and so on. Alas, what little reverence for marketable money! were they mine, how soon would I convert them into cash. No wonder such people submit to be taxedtaxed ! and so they ought to be, that we, the working bees in the great hive of life, may live. They have means to feast, hunt, shoot, and sleep; but such men as Bagall, Payne, and Snareall never sleep; or, if they do, it is 'with one eye open, like the Bristolians.' No, they are ever wide awake while money can be extracted from the pockets of their fellowcreatures !”
Would that Bagall had been bagged himself ere he or his Co., Mr. Snareall, ever crossed the threshold of dear old Brooklands. Payne would have caused us all less suffering in after years. As it was, at the moment Mr. Snareall went his way, fuming and fretting, and wondering how any one could be so great
a simpleton as to pass his time in wasting powder and riding to hounds while thousands were to be had for the mere asking, we two then merry sporting boys, being soon joined by the governor, walked briskly away that fair winter's morning to the most celebrated spot in all the vale for cocks. Scarcely had we reached it, than---whir--whir-bang
“ A miss, by St. Hubert! I was thinking of that confounded lawyer and his insolence. Ten thousand pounds for what ? -- to drive a roaring, tearing, steam-engine right through my home park, and destroy all the privacy of happy Brooklands ? No, no-never while I live."
Whir--whir-bang again! How now, another miss! And yet he was reckoned the best shot of the county.
“ Hang me, but this fellow has unnerved me with his confounded railways. But come, boys, I will kill the next for a crown.”
And so he did, and another, and another, till the short winter's day closed, and once more a happy family party we sat around a blazing hearth at the old hall at home. Dinner over--as was occasionally the custom on cock-shooting days, when we were alone-the old keeper was directed to attend, bringing with him, on a sort of large wicker-work tray, the produce of the day's sport. This was a matter of enjoyment not only to Arty as myself, but while Mary loved to handle the birds, even my dear mother would sometimes, though calmly, enter into our joys, in her delight at witnessing the health and spirits we gained by being constantly in air and exercise. Moreover, the aged keeper was a character in these days rarely met with ; as fit a subject, in physical bearing, for the display of talent in an artist, as were his many excellences as a servant and eccentricities as a man, for the pen. Mine, I
greatly fear, will but faintly do him justice ; nevertheless, though long years have passed since I looked on his manly form, and he has numbered among the dead, yet he stands out so clear in my mind's eye that I fear not to be enabled at least to sketch him as he appeared on that memorable evening at Brooklands, inasmuch as it was the era which commenced those events which cleared the stables of its gallant hunters, the woodlands of game, the hall of generous hospitality-breaking the best of parents' hearts, and leaving, eventually, little or nothing to those who remained, but firm affection the one for the other. The Brooklands were sold, and mortgaged entails cut off ; the hall let. And those who had been nursed in the lap of luxury, and educated in all the generous principles of human nature, became professional wanderers,
But the dining-room door is thrown open, and Jack Forster is anRounced by Brandyface, the butler.
“Come in, Jack,” said the squire ; “put your spoil on the side-board, and drink-The King, God bless him."
Now Jack, or old Jack, sometimes dear old Jack, as we familiarly termed him, stood exactly six feet two without his shoes, and was proportionably strongly built, though an ounce of flesh could scarcely be found on his body, whatever the amount of muscle. His hands and feet were large and strong, though not ill-formed, while his face was one of the handsomest and most benevolent I ever beheld-eyes brilliant and merry, with a smile about his mouth which many a fair woman might have envied ; for all that, kind though his disposition, with temper gentle as a lamb, he was firm in his duty as keeper, brave as a lion, and, moreover, an admirable sportsman and very fair shot. Jack, in truth, was much esteemed by the whole family, as was he in the neighbourhood-a fact which went farther to prevent poaching than his wellknown courage and active zeal. He had lived with two generations at Brookland Hall, and died in their service. Jack did as he was told, laid the game on the sideboard, and, advancing to the table, stood as erect as a life-guardsman saluting “the duke" -as noble a specimen of the animal man as man's eyes ever looked on, or woman's either. The squire of Brooklands filled a bumper--the glasses in those days were not quite so ridiculously small as they were subsequently, or quite so large or so greatly improved as they now are ; so raising the thimblefull to his lips, he said, in broad Somersetshire dialect-for he was a Somersetshire man-looking full in the face of dear Mary, whom he had held in his arms as a baby, and looked on as an angel in petticoats
“Here's a health to the king, God bless him, and Miss Mary in particular.”
“Very well,” said the good squire, “very well, Jack ; but his majesty's health should always be drunk alone, and in reverence. So here," filling another bumper, "toss this off according to your own desire--two such glasses only make one for such as you.
“Well, your magisterial honour”--he had the greatest respect for his master's magisterial dignity, possibly from constantly threatening people who were poaching or trespassing to take them before his honour, the magistrate at Brooklands--"I'll just drink Miss Mary again, missus, and all the family at home."
“And a right good-hearted toast, my man; but now, Jack, what have we done to-day ?”
"Done, your worship-why nothing worthy of a magistrate. I'm stagnated”--this was a favourite word of his—"I'm stagnated if your honour did not miss two cocks most promiscuously. I've see'd your worship kill dead many livelier birds nor they, and the distance was not at them of the morn."
“Well, Jack, never mind what I missed, but let the ladies see what we killed."
“Well, I'm stagnated, your honour, but there was not much to-day for a sporting magistrate, and him the Squire of Brooklands ; for, let who will say nay, I, Jack, who'se lived well nigh two score years in the family, will back him-either with flint or these new-fashioned capsto beat e'er a lad in the two counties."
“ There— let us see the bag of to-day."
“Well, your worship, there is as nice a couple of young birds as 'are fell to powder. Handle them, Miss Mary ; beautiful plumage, fat, and fit for the spit, I'm stagnated if they are not. There are two couple and a half more to match, a couple of ducks, two brace of pheasants, a brace of hares, and nine rabbits ; and, what's more, your honour, we viewed away a fine young dog fox from one of our best preserves, therefore the boys cannot complain of old Jack ; I'm stagnated--but I mean the young gentlemen.”
At this correction we all laughed heartily, while the squire added
“I should regret to see the day when the hounds draw the Brookland coverts without finding. And after all-missing or killing-I think our sport was tolerable this morning.”
“Well, your worshipful honour, well, I'm stagnated, but I recollects the day when your honour never led to Low Bottom Copse without a bag full of cocks, and not a miss ; to-day you only bagged two couple and a-half, and missed three fairish shots. Master Ned brought t'other couple to bag, and hares and rabbits counts for little or nothing in Brookland Vale.”
“ All true, Jack, all true : now tell me how goes the weather to-night —more frost-or will the foxes have to fly for their lives again to-morrow ?”
“Mild, your honour—mild as small beer, and fair-wind southerly. We shall have rain ere morning, methinks, but not much of it. His Grace of Gloucestershire meets near home, at the Crossways, and the earl at Broadways. 'Tis Saturday, if your worship minds; and them young fellows-I'm stagnated, beg your honor's pardon--master Ned and the duke's godson looks mightily as if they'd loak to be at both hunts at the same time, and see both the varmints killed. But the duke meets at Harlington on Monday-I sposes you three be there—cause I seed Blackwell a taking a hairing on Coxbean, and he told me he was just a winding on him, and taking the paces out of him, that he might lead the field on Monday; and James was on Silvertail, and the boy George, who looked affrighted, was on Friar Tuck, the new horse, and they all three started when I left them, and went across the park and over the hurdles and brook at the Waters Meet like antelopes.”
“ The deuce they did, Jack !” said I. “Confound that fellow Blackwell; he promised me when next he gave the hunters a sweat across the park I should ride Friar Tuck myself, to try his paces."
“And so you shall, my lad, if events and weather permit, at Har
lington Gorse ; but recollect, boys, this must be the last hunt this season. And now, Jack, good night, for I see Miss Mary is getting sleepy; the boys and I will have a round or two at oronoco. So, once more, good night! And may sweet and uninterrupted sleep prepare your mind to enjoy the peace of the morrow's Sabbath.”
Whatever our intentions, however, in this bright world; though formed only on the night of Saturday to be put in practical force on Monday ; whatever, in fact, man may propose, it is God alone who decides. Therefore, all joyous as we were in the anticipation of another day's hunting, a hunting we did not go, solely that the following morning's post, harbinger of so much gladness and sorrow, brought intelligence which at once put an end to all thoughts of merriment. Our beloved dad's beloved and only brother, like himself fond of field sports, had met with a severe accident, and two hours afterwards had ceased to exist.
This sad intelligence came on us all most unexpectedly, and naturally cast a terrible gloom over the hitherto joyous circle at the old hall at home ; and ere the first feelings of sorrow had softened down, the period arrived when we were called on once more to bid adieu to the home circle, and resume our studies at Eton.
And now, brother sportsmen, I wish to tell you a little secret---bear with me;
I have already whispered it to my friend Don Tomaso Tuxfordio del Toboso. When I first commenced these pages assisted by the notes of poor Fred Western, which notes were placed in my hands by his laughter-loving sister Gussy, who occasionally brought clear to my mind the sports of the Westerns, in their early days, by her own graphic description of Corbeau and Silvertail, the Stagnater and Barleycorn ; but she declares she will do no more than she has done already, without I give her some recompense for her labours. But as I now write in my bright little sanctum, she enters (it is Monday) with Bell's Life in her hand. It is really strange how well-bred wounen do devour Bell : but let her speak for herself.
Years have passed over her head—what then? her eyes are as brilliant as ever; her smile as full of affection, if not of merriment. She places her small hand on my shoulder, and thus addresses me—“What a scrall ! how I pity the printers! Always scribbling! Now do for once put by your papers.
And with this she seized the whole of my notes, and locked them up in a cabinet, pocketing the key, then seated herself by my side and commenced : “You promised to take me to Paris this spring ; look at the advertisement in Bell. Cheap trains to and fro, steamers included ; a review, a ball, eagles floating over the Champ de Mars and settling on the army; Napoleon advancing on a piebald charger as
President,' returning on a skewbald as Empereur.' How charming, how delicious !- go we must, indeed you have promised. I shall require a new pink satin drawn bonnet, a few dozen of French gloves, a white satin dress for the ball, and so forth-merely a few trifles. At all events, go or no go, you shall not have another sight of Fred's notes again, till you have promised."
What could I do? Why simply what any other man would have done who watched Gussy at that moment, and admitted how well she would look in the pink bonnet : I submitted without a word, closed the bargain with a kiss, and straightway proceeded to obtain the railway tickets. And the only apology I have to make that I also close the field sports