The old hounds soon disappear in the undergrowth, and only a few young ones are left with the huntsman. Now keep your eyes and your ears open, remembering that your sight and hearing, having the advantage of youth, ought to be as good as a huntsman's who may perhaps be the wrong side of forty.
Hark ! old Solomon has already hit the drag of the dog-fox which he left when he went to his kennel a few hours ago. Now others have joined the cry, and with many deviations they gradually work up to the bunch of dry grass which father fox had chosen as a resting-place after his night's wandering.
The varmint is afoot, and the uncertain, intermittent cry has suddenly swelled to a full, deep-throated chorus. Your heart beats with excitement, and a sudden desire is awakened to follow those entrancing sounds. You scuttle down one ride and up another, reaching a hand-gate on the outside of the covert as the leading hound emerges into the open. For one moment you forget that this is cub-hunting, but the stern realities of the situation are brought to your mind when the whip gallops up and turns hounds back into covert. The huntsman then blows his horn and proceeds to rouse the litter which is known to be here.
Except for the huntsman's exhortation to " try for him," all is now silent in the wood. A hound speaks, and in a few seconds the whole pack are in full cry again. Listen and you will hear they have divided, showing that there are several foxes afoot. Now sit still where you are and await further developments. A portion of the pack are working towards you, and it is evident they are not very far from their fox. There is a pattering on the leaves in the brushwood close by, and the next moment a fine cub hurries over the ride. What a glorious sight ! and how your throat itches to give a holloa ! But keep silent, for hounds are on his line, and you don't want to get their heads up. See them now come dashing across the ride and disappear in the thicket beyond.
Your ears must now tell you the direction they are running, and your judgment should inform you which ride you are most likely to see them next. There ! you were just in time to see the white-tipped brush flash over the green into the thick covert beyond. This is near the outside of the wood, and master cub must either face the open or turn back, but being of a bold disposition, he decides to go away. On this occasion his boldness saves him further molestation, for the whip stops the hounds and turns them back into covert.
The rest of the pack are running in a distant part of the wood, and you hurry off to join them. Four cubs and a brace of old foxes have gone away, leaving behind the weakest of the litter, and hounds are giving him a very warm time. Orders have gone forth to the whips not to stop the pack now if a cub should go away, but this one does not seem at all inclined to try his luck in the open.
The ground is becoming foiled, and only a few of the old hounds can speak to the line, until at last the music ceases altogether. The cub has probably lain down, and we must now refind him. Take a ride some distance away from the huntsman and watch it closely. You know the cub is somewhere in the quarter between you and the huntsman.
The buzzing of a fly is the only sound that breaks the silence in your immediate neighbourhood, and were it not for an occasional faint twang of the horn, you might think the hunt had left.
The frightened twitter of a blackbird tells of something moving at last, and you gaze intently down the ride. The next second the animal you are looking for is standing there in full view ; you never saw him come, and you can hardly believe your eyes. He has his mouth open and tongue hanging out in spite of the few minutes' rest, whilst with head slightly on one side he is immovable as a statue, listening for sounds of his enemies; then, satisfied they are some distance away, he creeps into the undergrowth.
Now you may give your lungs a chance in a holloa that will reach the farthermost point of the wood, and keep on until some of the pack or the huntsman appear. Your voice is unfamiliar, but it has a genuine ring in it, and the hounds quickly respond. Now turn your pony's head the way the fox has gone, and wave your hat in that direction. Your motions are rewarded by a burst of music, and the hunt is started again.
" Tally-ho ! gone-away !" cries the whip at the corner of the wood, and you must get to that point as quick as you can. You are smart enough to get there as the leading hound comes out of the covert, and can watch the remainder of the pack as they strive to reach him. Give them a second to get settled, then you can sit down and ride your hardest.
In spite of a brilliant September sun there is a scent on the grass, and the cub is not far in front. You have marked a gap in the first fence, and your pony flying it easily lands you alongside of the pack. The next fence is a high bullfinch, with a stiff footstile in one corner, the only feasible place. It is not a jump you would select for choice, but your blood is up, and you mean to stick to hounds if possible. You have got a good start, and must try to keep it. The timber, though strong, is not very high, and is really no higher than the hurdle you have jumped at home. Go at it, and don't hesitate.
Your pony does not quite like the look of that strong top-rail, and is not over-confident in his own powers of jumping; but he too is imbued with the spirit of the chase, and, gaining courage from the squeeze of his young rider's legs, he goes boldly at it. You are over, and alone with the pack. This is a moment you will never forget, and you are on the road to become a first-class man to hounds.
As your pony lands on the hard footpath beyond, you hear some one say, " Well done !" and looking round you find it is a horse-breaker on a three-year-old. He was on the outside of the covert, and slipping round quickly was in time to see you disappear over that first gap, which the young 'un jumps beautifully and is anxious for more. Jim Thompson is, however, a faded light, and his nerve has gone. At one time a superb horseman, for whom no fence was too big; whom no fall, however bad, could daunt; but a taste for strong liquors, acquired in youth and freely indulged in in mature age, has entirely ruined his nerve. Watch him now, and it may be a warning to you not to fall into his errors. The young horse has seen your pony jump the stile, and is very keen to follow the lead. See how well his rider holds him together, and keeps him moving with hocks well under him in a collected stride. The generous dram of spirit poor Jim took before leaving home has begun to ooze out, and the nearer he approaches the stile the stronger it appears. The young horse also is not quite sure of his jumping powers, and hesitates in the last few strides, wanting encouragement from his rider, but the limp and shaking legs inspire him with no confidence. Another few strides and he is close to the timber ; then suddenly he stops short and refuses. Jim gallops off home to deliver a half-spoilt horse to the owner, and to spend the remainder of the day in the public-house, dreaming of days that are past and runs he has seen.