Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/My first run

MY FIRST RUN.

 

 

I may as well say at once that I do not believe “man never is, but always to be blest.” This is a poor, sour sort of philosophy. Better is it to hold that, in this world of ours there is happiness to be harvested, and that the gathering of it depends very much upon ourselves.

It is my conviction, confirmed by recent experiences—some of which I am about to narrate—that an English country-house, at this time of year, affords the constituents of a very respectable paradise. Not many months ago I was a guest at such a one, in Northamptonshire, where neither fog nor rain could damp our spirits nor chill our pleasure. There was sport enough, and sportsmen in sufficient number, to make the days pass quickly, and a due proportion of ladies to render the evenings delightful.

On the second evening of my visit, the piano was giving out, beneath the skilful touch of a certain Miss Morland, the grand notes of one of Beethoven’s sonatas, and the conversation was pretty equally divided between the merits of the great composer, and the fortunes of the day in cover-shooting—with occasional variations touching the past musical season, and the superiority of breech-loaders over the common sporting gun—when I overheard an observation which made me aware that the Pytchley Hounds would meet the next morning within three miles of my friend’s house. The rapidity with which the news spread among the party, to the extinction of every other subject, and even to the silencing of the piano, convinced me that those who were neither hunters nor huntresses formed a very small minority.

In a moment Miss Morland turned on her music-stool right-about-face, and, addressing a pretty fair-haired girl sitting near her, said:

“You go, I hope, dear,—don’t you?”

“Oh yes,” replied the little Lady Caroline, awakening at once from an attitude of demure attention to a Diana-like enthusiasm, and assenting freely, without looking for acquiescence to her mamma—a full-blown wallflower—who was seated on the opposite side of the room, deep in an argument with our good-natured and warm-hearted host, Mr. Danvers.

He would have felt far more at home leaping a five-barred gate, than whilst thus discussing the imperial policy of France with Lady Towcester—an ambassador’s widow, who therefore set up for a female diplomatist.

Indeed, to say the truth, Lady Caroline looked up from the folds of her sky-blue silk rather reassuringly towards Major Anton, who manifested some anxiety at Miss Morland’s question, and stroked his moustache with evident complacency as he thought of the pleasure of a good run at the side of this fair girl. It was not very difficult to see that she occupied all of the gallant Major’s mind which the requirements of “the service,” his horses, and dogs, had not previously engrossed.

The moment that an opportunity occurred, Mr. Danvers was glad to effect a retreat from Lady Towcester. She manifested her victory by the very decided air of triumph with which she turned to talk with a quiet old lady at her side, one of those well-informed conversational machines—so helpful to shy young ladies—so necessary to nervous bachelors—and so indispensable to small dinner-parties.

Our host came across the room to the couch on which I was seated between a charming Anglo-Indian—whose husband was perhaps at that moment on parade beneath a glaring sun—and a Miss Keith, who, with her father, a Herefordshire squire, formed part of the company, and whose acquaintance I had made during a previous visit.

“Come, ladies, and you, Mr. Templar, what are you going up to in the morning? You must hunt or shoot; we have no skulkers here. Tomkins will show you some fine sport in the covers, Mrs. Linton, if you won’t follow the hounds,—although, really, I don’t know what will become of your crinoline down in the Ashwood spinney, where, even in the rides, there are brambles thick enough to throw a horse down.”

“I never hunted—in my life,” said Mrs. Linton.

“Nor I, but once or twice,” Miss Keith joined in.

“Nor I,” said their companion on the couch.

“Oh, as for you, Mr. Templar, I’ve already looked you out a horse, and I mean that you shall see a run, whether you can ride or not.”

“You must strap me on, then, Mazeppa-like,” I humbly replied, “for I am only a roadster, and might otherwise be left in the first ditch.”

“Oh, stuff an’ nonsense, sir; all you’ve got to do is to keep your hands low; don’t ride on your reins, and sit well back; my horse, Rover, will do the rest for you.”

“Perhaps, Mr. Danvers, I might as well be blindfolded,” said I, determined, nevertheless, to submit myself to fate and to the guidance of Rover in the chase of to-morrow.

“You’ll do well enough, I can see; and you won’t be far off at the finish, if you let Rover have his way.”

“And if I keep on his back, which you must permit me to say is rather doubtful.”

“Well, I hope Mrs. Linton and Miss Keith will go to take care of you.”

“I think we shall at least ride over to the meet,” said Mrs. Linton, looking towards Miss Keith, and receiving a consenting smile.

“So be it then,” said our host, “you shall have a couple of nags that won’t object if you change your mind, and like to see Mr. Templar win the brush, which,” he added with a sly twinkle of the eye, “I think he’d rather do with Miss Keith somewhere near him.”

I was thinking how pretty that young lady looked while blushing slightly at the Squire’s remark when a Mr. Delapierre summoned us to join in the game of “squails.” He was one of those heavy, easy-going men, whose life is a tour of visits; whom one meets everywhere; who are as regular to the seasons as the swallows; turning up at Baden-Baden or Brighton at precisely the right moment. Such men are the most useful, amiable, pleasant creatures, the perpetual stewards of society, continually engaged in the congenial occupation of retailing news and preparing amusements.

If cards were invented for a lunatic king, squails must have surely originated in an idiot asylum, or possibly some of the Lord Dundrearys of society may have invented the game when engaged in the study of that most wearisome occupation—doing nothing. Fancy a dozen people seated round a table, alternate ladies and gentlemen, engaged in jerking from its edge coloured circles of wood, something like an oyster-shell in size, at a button placed in the centre. Fancy this for a reasonable pastime.

It seemed to me that to know nothing about the game, or at least to appear to know nothing of it, was most advisable; for then some pitying lady perhaps takes you for a partner, and soon you find your tongue and possibly, if you are that way inclined, slide into a mild but somewhat public flirtation. Indeed it struck me that the game was probably the grand idea of some hymeneal professor, who knew that a baccalaurian conquest is half made when the light artillery of soft voices and bright eyes can be brought fully into action.

The weather was reported frosty as we bachelors had our privileged pipe in the smoking-room after the ladies had retired, and long grew the handsome face of Major Anton, as he thought of the probable disappointment of to-morrow.

“By Jove, you’re a lucky fellow, Anton,” said Delapierre, after emitting an immense puff of smoke.

“H’m, old fellow,” replied the Major, who seemed to be dwelling with great internal satisfaction upon thoughts of Lady Caroline, but was unwilling, as Englishmen usually are, to admit much upon this subject of his affections.

I confess to a liking for this proud reticence which distinguishes our countrymen. A Frenchman will talk you blind upon the subject of Julie’s eyes, or Nathalie’s grace, delighting in the publicity of his love, and, like Cervantes’ Don, he rides about with the name of his lady-love on the tip of his tongue. “But still waters run deep;” and that we do not thus prate of our feelings is some proof that as a people our heart-strings are tuned to deeper music, and that affection reaches with us to a higher abnegation of self, which is the touchstone of real and enduring love.

But even bachelors must sleep, though their bed-rooms are only to be found in all the uncomfortable nooks and corners of a house. However, we were all of us old campaigners, who had learned sufficient wisdom to make the best of everything, and those who were not in love were I dare say soon asleep. I was “fancy free,” although, when my servant awoke me in the morning, I found myself possessed with a hazy idea that I had been hunting with Miss Keith, and that it was rather unpleasant than otherwise to dispel the illusion.

There was a very picturesque variety of costumes at the breakfast table. Mr. Danvers, Anton and Delapierre, in scarlet, buckskin, and top-boots, looked business-like to the last degree; while two youngsters, whom I have not before mentioned because they were only the “walking gentlemen” of the party, were scrupulously “got up” in costume something like what the hero of a play, were he at once a gamekeeper and a lover, would wear upon the stage. Irreproachable shooting-coats, spotless gaiters, and boots in which all the artist skill of a Hoby could not hide the strength, denoted that pointers and not fox-hounds were to be their leaders to-day. There was Miss Morland—whose ample skirts extended last evening beneath the piano, from the key of the profoundest base note to that of the tiniest treble—in drapery positively classical. I wondered how Delapierre could call his heart his own, when upon entering the room—holding up her riding-habit, with a pheasant’s wing shining gold and brown in the hat which crowned her beautiful features—she said:

“You must take care of me to-day, Mr. Delapierre.”

The individual addressed of course “could not desire a happier office,” and soon Lady Caroline came dancing in, and, with a saucy look at Anton, waved with her riding whip a matutinal salutation to Mr. Danvers, and seated herself at the breakfast table. In a short time Mrs. Linton and Miss Keith joined the party, and on looking round I saw that I was the only person at table whose dress was that of every-day life.

“Well, Major, what do you think of the weather?” said Mr. Danvers.

“Oh, first-rate; there’s plenty of sun to settle all this frost by ten o’clock, and the meet is not till eleven.”

“I say, Templar, hadn’t you better make your will, leaving your heart to some of these ladies, and your money to me?” said Delapierre. “Although,” he added, “I don’t believe you are such a bad rider as you pretend to be; you lawyers are cunning fellows, and I expect you intend to astonish us and bring Rover in at the death.”

“At all events, whether he gallops with me or without me, my horse will have an easier time of it than yours, Delapierre,” I replied, turning attention upon the good-humoured fifteen stone of humanity which was shaking with laughter at the idea of my coming to grief.

Every one was full of fun, and Miss Keith was laughing at a fancy picture of the battered condition in which I supposed I should return, when the grooms brought the horses to the door, and our host rose:

“Now then, ladies and gentlemen, our master’s very punctual—we must be off,” and, like a gallant old gentleman, he led Miss Morland to the door, and assisted her in mounting her horse.

I confess to an electrical sensation at the touch of Miss Keith’s foot upon my hand, and a less prejudiced observer might have thought she looked very pretty upon horseback, her animated features glowing with excitement, and her grey habit falling in graceful folds. We rode out of the gates, a goodly party,—four ladies and four gentlemen—with a groom, to return with Mrs. Linton and Miss Keith, if they preferred not to join the hunt.

The meet was at a certain toll-bar, where four roads joined, and, as we approached the place, horsemen became more and more numerous—in scarlet, in black, in brown and green coats, and upon horses of at least as many colours. At last we were moving along in a mass of very irregular cavalry, choking the narrow road and compelling observation of one’s neighbours. I observed, with much satisfaction, the general prevalence of good manners and kindly feeling. There were a few ladies in the throng; but nothing occurred to render their position in the least unpleasant. There were some who, like myself, perhaps, sat their horses with evident inexperience. But, where this was the case, the whole of the difficulty was between the rider and his horse, for every one seemed bent on his own enjoyment, and upon assisting, as far as possible, his fellow-huntsmen in the same pursuit.

It was not at all difficult to handicap the men as we rode among them: from the calm, self-possessed, carefully-dressed, and well-mounted noblemen and country gentlemen, or the professional men taking their holiday in a little less easy manner, to the sturdy young farmers, who only wanted better horseflesh and less weight to be a match for their more aristocratic companions.

I was never a member of that “Young England” party, the leader of which—who, by the way, is now grey-haired and wiser—expressed in boyish rhymes his contentment that art and science, learning and commerce should die, so long as “our old nobility” remained. But I am profoundly sensible of the constitutional advantages of an aristocracy, and “my first run” has convinced me of what I did not doubt before, that this national sport is of great service in preventing that isolation of the aristocracy which would act so prejudicially upon their proper influence in the State.

There was a good sprinkling of noblemen in the field, and more than once, as we approached the meeting-place, I overheard such conversations as this:—

“Morning, Mr. Brown.”

“Morning, my lord.”

“How’s that mare of yours? I’ll buy her foal of you if you want to sell her.”

“I mean to bring it up, as it’s a nice ’un, for my own use, my lord.”

And the peer rode off to have a talk with some other tenant perhaps, far too well contented with the present, to regret those bygone days when one of his rank could have said, “Give thy best steed, as a vassal ought;” or when the “villains” doffed their caps in gaping wonder as his ancestor rode forth upon the chase, possessed possibly of the chartered privilege of ripping one of them open for a foot-warmer, should he feel so disposed.

We had now arrived at the meeting-place, where the hounds were gathered about the huntsmen, who now and then flacked their long whips, and loudly called in some one which was straggling too far from the pack. There were a few carriages, whose occupants had driven over to see the meet, and a field of about a hundred and fifty horsemen, including perhaps half-a-dozen ladies.

Precisely at the appointed time the hounds were thrown off, and the field streamed through a narrow gate into a farm roadway, following the pack to some neighbouring covert. Our party soon became separated, but I could see Anton and Lady Caroline ahead, and Delapierre riding near to Miss Morland. Danvers had taken up with some neighbours, and was somewhere close to the hounds. Miss Keith and I, with Mrs. Linton and the groom, were in the ruck of horsemen, in about the middle of the field.

I think I felt much as a man does who is going into battle for the first time—with no desire to turn back, but with something like a shrinking from the work before me. However, as my horse warmed under me while he strode at an easy canter across the soft fields of young wheat, and as I watched the flushing cheeks of my fair companion, who I began to feel certain would not return, the excitement of the scene overmastered every other consideration, and I felt that exuberant satisfaction, the mere recollection of which made me so scornfully reject Pope’s philosophy at the outset of this paper.

On we streamed in a line more than a quarter of a mile in length, following the unmade road, and although many rode over the fields, no one refused to make use of the gaps and gateways, husbanding their horses’ strength for the run. Our way led across a narrow railway bridge, which was crowded for a long time with horsemen, but having passed this, the green road became wider, the gates less frequent, and we could only keep our places with our horses at a gallop. After we had proceeded thus for about three miles from the meeting-place, the hounds were turned into a large wood, where there seemed little doubt of their finding a fox. At this point Mrs. Linton declared her intention of returning home, and commending Miss Keith to my care, which, so far as my power would go, was a work of supererogation, she with some difficulty turned her horse’s head and left us, followed by the groom.

Although I had never sat a horse for a leap in my life, and had more than a suspicion that I should break my neck or something less important, I never felt more pleasurably excited than when the first whimper of the hounds announced that they had found, and my fair companion and I galloped up to take a better place in the run. Soon the tones of the dogs changed their key, and, although we could not see them, we knew quite well that the fox had broken cover, and that the hounds were in full cry after him.

“Now, Mr. Templar, you go first,” said Miss Keith; and my horse was directly at his fullest stride, making towards a low hedge, over which the huntsmen were rising and falling in quick succession. I felt at that moment about as comfortable as if I had been charging a column of infantry, but I had sense enough to understand that Rover knew far more about it than I did; and following Lord ——, whom I knew to be a well-mounted and experienced chasseur, I made for the same gap towards which he was riding.

I saw his horse rise and dip down again on the other side, quickly regaining his stride, and before I could complete a wish that I was in his lordship’s position, Rover rose under me; my feet had a strong inclination to go towards the sky, and my head to take refuge upon his tail; my seat was just, and only just, firm enough to restrain me from going off backwards. I was far from having recovered myself, when a precisely opposite tendency occurred, and I had the greatest difficulty to prevent myself from embracing Rover’s graceful neck. However, the jump was over, and after one stride I was firmly seated again, and looked round just in time to see Miss Keith take the hedge in fine style. She joined me, laughing at my danger, but assuring me at the same time, to my great delight, that if that was my first jump I had sat it out very well indeed.

On we rode, galloping past a poor fellow who, muddy and hatless, was running after his horse, which was already nearly the whole length of the enclosure ahead of him. Miss Keith and I were at least well mounted; and, although I believe firmly that Rover knew how inexperienced I was, I think he was gratified by my confidence in him, for I only used the reins to check him to the pace of Miss Keith’s horse. We had passed ten or twelve meadows—since the leap—through more inviting gates, and had already left the bulk of the field behind. And now I caught sight of the fox and his pursuers, for we were gently descending over a great breadth of pasture to a ditch, which I could see made a long leap for the hounds. We were in the rear of some of our party, but still well up, and it appeared to me that this brook would be the test for awarding the honours of the hunt.

The fox, with the hounds close at his brush, was breasting the opposite incline, Reynard making for a large wood which lay about two miles distant on the top of the ridge; the field was straggling, and only now and then one cleared the ditch. I saw Danvers take it among the first; Lady Caroline was urging her mare towards it, and as her ladyship was about the most imponderable being ever seen among womanhood, and knew her horse well, I was not surprised to see her fly across. But Anton was less fortunate: his horse refused to take the leap, and the gallant guardsman—too firm a rider to be thrown over its head—slid off, grasping the animal’s withers in his fall. Before we reached him he was on again and riding towards us, to get way for another attempt. I saw he was looking fiercely annoyed, and it occurred to me how cold the water would be this frosty morning, if, as was very likely, I should be even less fortunate than the Major. However, there was little time for such thoughts, for we were charging the brook, and, to say the truth, I was thinking more of whether Miss Keith’s horse would carry her across safely, and would gladly have had a ducking to save her from the effects of a false step.

“I have wonderful faith in Rover,” I said; “and will go just before you to encourage your horse, for I feel quite sure mine won’t refuse.”

“Very well,” she replied; “but I’m not a bit afraid.”

And we galloped on. If Rover had pulled up at the brink of the ditch, I should have been shot far over his head into the next field, but he seemed only to make an immense stride, and I had crossed the gap, hardly alighting on the other side before Miss Keith joined me. We were pleased with our success, and turning back saw half a dozen of the field already in difficulties at the ditch, and Anton savagely galloping round to a gateway, his horse having refused a second time.

There were not more than twenty before us now, and I was growing more excited and more confident every moment. The charming enthusiasm of my companion inspired me, and if I felt at the first hedge as if charging infantry, now the battle seemed won, and I intoxicated with triumph.

Unsporting reader! do not think I rave: it needs strong language to express the sensations of a gallop after foxhounds. I shall never more wonder that the universal topic of conversation in hunting districts is the last run, and I shall henceforth only pity the men whose shallow powers of utterance does not enable them to give fuller expression to their emotion.

Our horses laboured up the ascent evidently a little tired by their long and heavy gallop; about half-a-dozen determined riders passed us as we were approaching the wood, where Danvers, with Lady Caroline, and a group of about a score, were standing still, their jaded horses, with outstretched necks and legs, steaming in clouds. The hounds were howling in the wood, and we soon heard that the fox had been run to earth and they disappointed of their prey.

“Well done, Miss Keith; and well done, Templar,” said Mr. Danvers, as we rode up. “You found Rover a good nag, didn’t you?”

“Yes, it’s all his doing that I am here.”

“Well, we’ve had a glorious run, although we haven’t killed our fox; but what have you done with Anton, Lady Caroline?”

“Really, Mr. Danvers, I don’t know,” replied Lady Caroline. “I think he was very near putting himself into that ditch below us; but here he comes to answer for himself.”

And Anton rode up, looking very discomfited; Lady Caroline’s eyes welcoming him with a prettily malicious pleasure, as she pertly thanked him for his devoted attention throughout the run. Delapierre and Miss Morland were nowhere to be seen, and Miss Keith and I followed Lady Caroline and Anton on the way homewards. After riding for some time in silence, she said:

“I am so sorry you are going away to-morrow, Mr. Templar.”

“Thank you,” I replied; “my unwillingness to do so is greatly increased by your kind remark.”

“Well, why do you, then?”

“Because—”

“Because you are tired of our company, I suppose, and are already sighing for the pleasures of your London life.”

“Miss Keith, how can you do me such injustice? It is even cruel of you to suggest the thought of my solitary chambers while I am enjoying the sunshine of your company. But I suppose it is on principle that you do it, warning me against drinking too deeply of my present happiness.”

“Really, Mr. Templar, no one would suppose you had such pretty speeches left in you after that tremendous leap of yours, when, I hope you will forgive me for thinking that you rolled about like a Chinese doll.”

“You forget, Miss Keith, that the fox was before while you were behind me, or you would easily comprehend how at that moment, while Rover forced me forward, my inclination led me backward.”

A little blush betrayed that I had at least won this skirmish. Our horses hadn’t a canter left in them, so we allowed them to walk towards home.

“How beautiful those woods are!”—and I called my companion’s attention to the rich clumps of trees which fringed the hills near us. Their gorgeous autumn colouring, with the sunlight shining full upon them through the cold clear air of a November afternoon, formed part of a splendid landscape.

“They are, indeed,” she replied; adding—“which do you like best, Mr. Templar, London or the country?”

“You forget, Miss Keith, I have never yet tried riding with you in a London street, therefore I must withhold my judgment.”

“Oh, what nonsense you talk; you know what I mean.”

“I think I do; but really I am at present so well contented with the country, that it will be dangerous for me to decide. I wish this was the exception to the rule regarding long lanes, and that it had no turning, but led straight on for ever.”

“Well, you are unmerciful. If you have forgotten such material things as dinner, you might at least have had some feeling for your poor horse’s wants. I am afraid you are becoming selfish, Mr. Templar.”

“If it is selfish to centre one’s thoughts upon one individual; to love one person to the exclusion of all others; to know no pleasure in life except in the society of one single human being; if to love her with all my heart and soul and strength, and to feed continually upon the hope of being permitted to devote my existence to making her life happy; if, in short, dearest Miss Keith, to love—”

At this moment a loud halloo from Danvers startled us, and cut short my speech: he galloped up quickly.

“Well, you young people—you left me all behind. I suppose you’ve been talking over the run. Eh! Miss Keith?”

“Y—es we have,” she replied.

Danvers seemed to have doubts as to the truth of this, and, perhaps, would have proceeded to confuse us both by a cross-examination; but the conversation was interrupted by the sudden fall of Miss Keith’s horse, whether from some weakness of the legs, or from a stumble over one of the round pebbles with which the road was mended, I could not determine.

Unprepared for such a mishap, she fell from her saddle, and lay upon the road, as I feared much hurt. Her horse, after a violent struggle, rose to its feet, and set off at full gallop towards home.

In a moment I was off my horse, and found the young lady in some pain from her fall, but not seriously hurt. Assisting her to rise, I led her to a gate close at hand, and while she leaned against it, went to a neighbouring brook and returned with my felt hat filled with water, in which she bathed her hands. Her gloves were cut through, and some particles of gravel had been forced beneath the grazed skin of one of the palms of her hands.

“I am so much obliged to you, Mr. Templar; I feel all right again now,” she said; “but where is my horse?”

“Very near to Mr. Danvers’ stable, I expect, by this time,” I answered.

“Oh, dear! what will papa think if he sees the horse? How frightened he will be!”

“That’s just what I’m thinking of, Miss Keith,” said Danvers, “and, as I am sure Mr. Templar will look well to you, I think I’d better ride on quickly, and tell Mr. Keith and all inquiring friends that there is no greater damage done than the rasping of those pretty hands, to say nothing of the torn habit and gloves.”

“I’ll take care of Miss Keith. Do ride on, Danvers, there’s a good fellow,” I said.

“Very well, I don’t doubt you’ll do your best to look after the forlorn Diana—I’ll push on.” And off he rode.

“Will you take my arm, Miss Keith, or will you sit on my horse; he is very quiet now, after his long run with such a weight on his back.”

“Thank you, I think I can walk.”

She gathered up her habit, and, taking my arm, we left the scene of this mishap. I led Rover with my spare hand, but before we had proceeded many yards, it was evident that walking was painful and difficult to my companion, and I again suggested that she should mount my horse.

“Well, I think I will,” she said; and, placing her foot in my hand, I lifted her gently on to the saddle. She gathered the reins tightly to steady herself, and we proceeded at a walking pace.

“I don’t mind my tumble at all, now that I know papa will not be alarmed—though it spoils the successful appearance of our run; does it not, Mr. Templar?”

“Are you sure you are not hurt?”

“Oh, not at all, I feel no pain whatever now, Rover’s pace is so easy, and this saddle so comfortable. We have had a very agreeable day, taking it altogether. Don’t you think so?”

“Rather too pleasant. I am only so sorry it must have an end.”

“Now don’t begin to talk nonsense again, Mr. Templar, or I shall be obliged, at the risk of my life, to whip Rover into running away from you.”

“Miss Keith,” I said, laying my hand near to hers upon the saddle, “I cannot hide my feelings as successfully as you do the effects of a fall. It seems to me, now, as if I were counting the hours of my life by those which yet remain to me in your company. If I might carry away with me the knowledge that you, whom I love best on earth, felt some love for me—that while the memory of you will be with me always, I should be remembered by you; if I might think it not vain to hope that, some day, you would endow me with the right to be your guardian and protector, I should think myself the happiest—the most enviable of men.”

She was looking down while I spoke with a soft and grave expression on her face, and as I took her hand, unresisted, and kissed it, she blushed deeply, gently withdrawing it from mine.

“Let me, dearest Miss Keith, hear my sentence. Will you, can you ever love me?”

I touched Rover’s neck, and he stood still as if he were also interested in her answer. She raised her eyes, and, with a look of shy happiness, laid her hand in mine,—a free and loving gift I would not exchange for any conceivable possession.

Our hearts were too full to talk much during the short distance which remained. But I learned enough to make me not only happy but secure in my love, and—as I assisted her to dismount before we reached the house—sealed my engagement in the pleasantest manner possible.

Miss Keith’s horse had arrived at the stables slightly lame, but otherwise uninjured; and we received the congratulations of our friends upon our success in the hunting-field. Miss Keith was a general favourite, and every one was delighted to find her unhurt by her fall.

So “my first run” ended. I have followed hounds several times since, but never with so much pleasure. Our engagement has been ratified by the ready consent of our respective friends, and my happiness seems to date from an occasion which I hope is not entirely devoid of interest to the reader.

A. A.