Billeder på siden

equilibrium to our feelings, we subscribed throughout Wales to extort six horses from the astonished innkeepers, most of whom declined the requisition, and would furnish only four, on the plea that the leaders would only embarrass the other horses; but one at Bangor, from whom we coolly requested eight, re coiled from our demand as from a sort of miniature treason. How so? Because in this island he had always understood eight horses to be consecrated to royal use. Not at all, we assured him; Pickford, the great carrier, always horsed his wagons with eight. And the law knew of no distinction between wagon and post-chaise, coach-horse or cart-horse. However, we could not compass this point of the eight horses, the double quadriga, in one single instance; but the true reason we surmised to be, not the pretended puritanism of loyalty to the house of Guelph, but the running short of the innkeeper's funds. If he had to meet a daily average call for twenty-four horses, then it might well happen that our draft upon him for eight horses at one pull would bankrupt him for a whole day.

But I am anticipating. Returning to Ireland and Mr. Moran, the vicious driver of vicious horses, the immediate consequence to him of this unexpected limitation to a pair of horses was, that all his knavery in one hour recoiled upon himself. The horses whom he had himself trained to vice and restiveness, in the hope that thus his own services and theirs might be less in request, now became the very curse of his life. Every morning, duly as an attempt was made to put them in motion, they began to back, and no arts, gentle or harsh, would for a

[ocr errors]

were ten

moment avail to coax or to coërce them into the counter direction. Could retrogression by any metaphysics have been translated into progress, we excelled in that; it was our forte; we could have backed to the North Pole. That might be the way to glory, or at least to distinction — sic itur ad astra ; unfortunately, it was not the way to Dublin. Consequently, on every day of our journey and the days not once, but always, we had the same deadly conflict to repeat; and this being always unavailing, found its solution uniformly in the following ultimate resource. Two large-boned horses, usually taken from the plough, were harnessed on as leaders. By main force they hauled our wicked wheelers into the right direction, and forced them, by pure physical superiority, into working. We furnished a joyous and comic spectacle to every town and village through which we passed. The whole community, men and children, came out to assist at our departure; and all alike were diverted, but not the less irritated, by the demoniac obstinacy of the brutes, who seemed under the immediate inspiration of the fiend. Everybody was anxious to share in the scourging which was administered to them right and left; and once propelled into a gallop (or such a gallop as our Brobdignagian leaders could accomplish), they were forced into keeping it up. But, without rehearsing all the details of the case, it may be readily conceived that the amount of trouble distributed amongst our whole party was enormous. Once or twice the friends at whose nouses we slept were able to assist us. But gen erally they either had no horses, or none of the

commanding power demanded. Often, again, it happened, as our route was very circuitous, that no inns lay in our neighborhood; or, if there were inns, the horses proved to be of too slight a build. At Ballinasloe, and again at Athlone, half the town came out to help us; and, having no suitable horses, thirty or forty men, with shouts of laughter, pulled at ropes fastened to our pole and splinter-bar, and compelled the snorting demons into a flying gallop. But, naturally, a couple of miles saw this resouree exhausted. Then came the necessity of "drawing the covers," as the dean called it; that is, hunting amongst the adjacent farmers for powerful cattle. This labor (0, Jupiter, thanks be for that!) fell upon Mr. Moran. And sometimes it would happen that the horses, which it had cost him three or four hours to find, could be spared only for four or five miles. Such a journey can rarely have been accomplished. Our zigzag course had prolonged it into from two hundred and thirty to two hundred and fifty miles; and it is literally true that, of this entire distance from Westport House to Sackville-street, Dublin, not one furlong had been performed under the spontaneous impulse of our own horses. Their diabolic resistance continued to the last. And one may venture to hope that the sense of final subjugation to man must have proved penally bitter to the horses. But, meantime, it vexes one that such wretches should be fed with good old hay and oats; as well littered down also in their stalls as a prebendary ; and by many a stranger, ignorant of their true character, should have been patted and caressed. Let us hope that a fate, to which more than once they were

nearly forcing us, namely, regress over a precipice, may ultimately have been their own. Once I saw such another case dramatically carried through to its natural crisis in the Liverpool Mail. It was on the stage leading into Lichfield; there was no conspiracy, as in our Irish case; one horse only out of the four was the criminal; and, according to the queen's bench (Denman, C. J.), there is no conspiracy competent to one agent; but he was even more signally under a demoniac possession of mu tinous resistance to man. The case was really a memorable one. If ever there was a distinct procla mation of rebellion against man, it was made by that brutal horse; and I, therefore, being a passenger on the box, took a note of the case; and on a proper occasion I may be induced to publish it, unless some Houynhm should whinny against me a chancery injunction.

From these wild, Tartar-like stables of Connaught, how vast was the transition to that perfection of elegance, and of adaptation between means and ends, that reigned from centre to circumference through the stables at Laxton! I, as it happened, could report to Lord Massey their earlier condition; he to me could report their immediate changes. I won him easily to an interest in my own Irish experiences, so fresh, and in parts so grotesque, wilder also by much. in Connaught than in Lord Massey's county of Limerick; whilst he (without affecting any delight in the hunting systems of Northamptonshire and Leicestershire) yet took pleasure in explaining to me those characteristic features of the English midland hunt ing as centralized at Melton, which even then gave

to it the supreme rank for brilliancy and unity of effect amongst all varieties of the chase.*

[ocr errors]

Horses had formed the natural and introductory topic of conversation between us. What we severally knew of Ireland, though in different quarters, what we both knew of Laxton, the barbaric splendor, and the civilized splendor, - had naturally an interest for us both in their contrasts (at one time so picturesque, at another so grotesque), which illuminated our separate recollections. But my quick instinct soon made me aware that a jealousy was gathering in Lord Massey's mind around such a topic, as though too ostentatiously levelled to his particular knowledge, or to his animal condition of

*If mere names were allowed to dazzle the judgment, how magnificent to a gallant young Englishman of twenty seems at first the tiger-hunting of India, which yet (when examined searchingly) turns out the meanest and most cowardly mode of hunting known to human experience. Buffalo-hunting is much more dignified as regards the courageous exposure of the hunter; but, from all accounts, its excitement is too momentary and evanescent; one rifle-shot, and the crisis is past. Besides that, the generous and honest character of the buffalo disturbs the cordiality of the sport. The very opposite reason disturbs the interest of lion-hunting, especially at the Cape. The lion is everywhere a cowardly wretch, unless when sublimed into courage by famine; but, in southern Africa, he is the most currish of enemies. Those who fancied so much adventurousness in the lion conflicts of Mr. Gordon Cumming appear never to have read the missionary travels of Mr. Moffat. The poor missionary, without any arms whatever, came to think lightly of half a dozen lions seen drinking through the twilight at the very same pond or river as himself. Nobody can have any wish to undervalue the adventurous gallantry of Mr. G. Cumming. But, in the single case of the Cape lion, there is an unintentional advantage taken from the traditional name of lion, as though the Cape lion were such as that which ranges the torrid zone.

« ForrigeFortsæt »