An occasional series in which we offer a pleasant “good night” to our readers, courtesy of hunting literature. Sweet dreams!
THE OOTACAMUND HOUNDS
“AND SO at the commencement of the season of 1877–the hunting season, be it remembered, being contemporary with the period of the year during which Ootacamund is a fashionable resort–there was a fine pack of hounds in the kennel; but at so low an ebb were the funds of the Hunt that the adjective fine was gradually assuming a distinct and secondary meaning, and sale or starvation were only just warded off by the self-sacrificing efforts of Mr. Schmidt, the keenest and most thorough of honorary secretaries.
“Thirty-one couple; and you might almost have taught a child his alphabet from the varied brands on their ribs. From the Atherstone to Lord Yarborough’s, every initial was represented that ever figured on a list of hunting appointments; and there is little reason to doubt that the causes which had procured the banishment of the various members were well-nigh as numerous, embracing every sin of omission and commission to which hound flesh is heir.
” … For very fear, the gates of the kennel yard had been kept closed on them for the month they had already spent on the Neilgherries. Half the pack, it is true, were tried and trusty servants … Another three couple had recently arrived from Leicestershire, and it was hoped that not even a sea voyage would have eradicated the discipline inculcated at Quorndon. But the rest no language can give any just idea of this band of wild irrepressibles, of the atrocities they committed, or of the anxiety, and oftentimes shame, that they caused before any glimmering of the idea that they were to consider themselves ‘component parts of one harmonious whole’ could be made to dawn upon them.
“… The inmates of the kennel had already begun to sniff liberty and the noise within had become appalling, when at a signal the door was opened, and out they rushed, scrambling and tumbling over each other–those underneath yelling for their lives, and the puppies giving tongue as freely as if on a hot scent in covert. The cracking of whips in their faces hindered only the old stagers of the mob, the remainder dashing forward, heads up and sterns down, as delighted as schoolboys at their unexpected holiday. A nanny goat startled at the uproar sprang away before them, and naturally enough the puppies seized the chance presented, raised a hue and cry in her wake that must have roused all sleeping Ooty, and pursued her pell-mell down the road. A check was brought about by Nanny manfully turning round upon her pursuers; but reinforcements arriving (the contagion having now spread through the whole pack), she was forced again to betake herself to flight.
“As ill-luck would have it, a Mohammedan shopkeeper, of high caste and position, was taking down his shutters close by. In through the open door dashed Nanny, after her rushed the thirty couple of noisy fiends, upsetting the shopman on their way, and defiling his carcass with their unclean feet. The uproar in the shop became hideous, as the nanny goat stood at bay on a shelf, the counter swept of its wares, and the floor a chaos of every conceivable commodity that a store affords.
“The huntsman, almost as enraged at the conduct of his pets as the now foaming shopkeeper, stood some fifty yards away, blowing his horn with might and main while his attendants plunged into the melee, and plied whipcord and rating with lavish freedom. [The shopkeeper], regaining his feet, seized a double-barrelled gun; but, fortunately, could not find his cartridges, or assuredly some crime, and possibly bloody reprisal, would have been committed. The old hounds soon tired of their disgraceful lark, and their younger confreres were quickly made to feel the situation too hot for them.
“This was only the first act of a stirring morning’s performance. But I need not dwell on how the young entry found further genial occupation in chivying a black retriever until he plunged under his sick master’s bed; nor how they ran the pug of a lady of high rank and position (this in India, too, where rank and precedence are words of awful significance) to ground in its mistress’s pony carriage, frightening the owner almost to death, and starting her pony in their determined efforts to draw their prey. When at length they were brought back to kennel, master and whips were exhausted and despondent. … A great part of the remainder of the day was spent in impressing upon the subjects under treatment that names had been given them in their youth, with the intent that they should come when they were called, and not before.”
From Foxhound, Forest, and Prairie by Capt. Edward Pennell-Elmhirst (1845-1916)