Read Mr Facey Romford's Hounds Online

Authors: R S Surtees

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Mr Facey Romford's Hounds (5 page)

BOOK: Mr Facey Romford's Hounds
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Facey on his part kept the mastership project firmly and steadily in view. The letters M.F.H. met him in the morning, they accompanied him throughout the day, and closed his eyes at night. He apostrophised the Bow bells' address to Whittington—

Turn again, Whittington,

Thrice Lord Mayor of London.


Turn again, Romford,

Thrice Master of Fox-Hounds.

He felt fully persuaded he would be a master, just as Mr Disraeli felt fully persuaded he would be an orator, and Louis Napoleon that he would be an emperor—it was fated so. He visited all the likely haunts of horsey and hunting men, from Tattersall's down to some of the enterprising gentlemen who offer invaluable horses for half nothing, with every opportunity of investigation and trial. Though most of these thought Facey looked like a clown, yet there was something about his roguish physiognomy that prevented their trying it on with him. One thought he was a coper in disguise, and asked him, with a knowing wink, if he wasn't in their line himself. And though Facey had gone into the yard with a considerable swagger, he did not resent the imputation, but said, in a low confidential sort of tone, “Well, no, but p'raps I could give you a lift.” And the man being ever anxious to do someone, after feeling his way a little further, fraternised with Facey, and put him up to a thing or two. So Facey went about from place to place, always with an eye to the main chance—that of getting a country, and talking as if he had lately abandoned one.

Still, running about and making inquiries instead of advertising for what one wants, is very much like sending one's letters by a special messenger instead of availing oneself of the post. One good advertisement in the right quarter, the right medium of communication, will do more towards suiting people than whole reams of letter paper, and months of personal effort and inquiry.

Of course Romford, wanting a country, did not advertise in the “Record,” or the “Saturday Review,” but went to the appropriate office of “Bell's Life in London,” where with the aid of a clerk he combed out a very taking advertisement. It stated that a gentleman, to whom subscription was a secondary consideration, was ready to treat for a country where he could get a little shooting and fishing as well. “All letters and communications to be addressed to Francis Romford, Esq., at the Sponge Cigar Warehouse, Jermyn Street, St. James's, S.W.,” Facey thinking that Jermyn Street, St. James's, sounded better than Jermyn Street, Haymarket, which perhaps it does. And having thus laid the foundation of future fame he went about with a copy of the paper in his pocket, pricing saddles and bridles, and things, showing the fortunate victim by the advertisement where to send them to; and sportsmen being always in high repute with tradesmen, he very soon got a goodly collection together. He looked in at Bartley and Hammond's, intending to have his boots and breeches from them; but somehow, though these great professors took his measure, and complimented him on his proportions, they did not care to execute his orders. Bartley told him he would back him to lick Sayers, but still he would not make him a pair of boots to fight in. However, as Facey said, there was no harm done, and he inwardly wished himself better luck another time.

, H

the hunting season it was not to be expected that friend Romford would have many applications for his immediate services; but these being the days for getting one's sport out of other people's pockets, he had plenty of feelers as to what he would do against the next one. Some of the writers evidently thought they were communicating with the other Mr Romford, who if they could but get to adopt their country, it would save them all further trouble about subscribing—sport being evidently the object of the advertiser, not subscription—indeed, Mr Romford was known to be very rich. Facey entered into correspondence with some of these, and one gentleman came all the way from Uttoxeter to see him, to the serious detriment of a five pound note; when finding they were both of the same kidney, he was weak enough to try to get Facey to pay half his expenses—a light for a cigar was all he got out of Romford. Still, our friend continued his advertisement, and at length it brought forth,—if not golden,—at all events some fruit. The members of the old-established Heavyside Hunt had quarrelled among themselves, and it had been resolved to re-cast the establishment altogether, and have a dictator instead of many masters.

The hunt, as many of our readers are perhaps aware, is one of very great antiquity, being called after its founder, Mr Simon Heavyside, of Heavyside Hall. From one of his capacious clasped red pockets in which he used to dot down the doings of the day, the horses he bought, the corn he sold, the lambs he reared, we learn that, so far back as 1751, he had hired a youth called Mark Buck to go with Harry the huntsman and hounds, the same being, as Mr Heavyside noted, “cappital when settled to their fox, but rather mettlesome before,” most likely very riotous, and Buck was to be whipper-in under the inferior title of couple-boy. The hunt therefore must have been in existence sometime before this, though how long we are unable to say. Mr Heavyside kept the establishment, such as it was, and having the whole county to operate upon he used to make royal sporting progresses wherever he heard there was good wine to drink and foxes to hunt. Very cheery and jolly the old cocks were, hunting, and drinking, and talking enthusiastically of the sport. Very circumspect they were about their port—four years in wood and twenty in bottle was the youngest they could drink, and solemn and sententious were the judgments they delivered ere a pipe was considered perfect. Then they went ahead till it was finished. They never hunted two days together—three days a week was considered very handsome; but they used to assemble at the kennel on the intervening ones, and chat over the pedigrees and merits of those hounds that had particularly distinguished themselves on the preceding days,—how Firebrand led up to the Gibbet on Harrowden Heath, and how Trimbush and Trueman took it up and maintained the lead all the way to Billington Hill. It was all the hounds they talked about, not themselves or their horses. No telling of how Brown beat Smith, or how Tomkins set the field. Indeed, the horses were not adapted to that description of work; being merely what would be called machiners at the present day, but they could trot and clamber along, and a hunt not being a hunt unless it lasted three hours, there was great harmony between them and the hounds. They would paw and whinny with delight as some sage veteran of the chase made long-drawn proclamation of the scent, to be ratified and confirmed by each particular hound for himself. They used not to take much upon credit. Each hound had to be satisfied, and enthusiastic would he be when he was so—not a yard would they go without a scent.

We have been favoured with a sight of a picture of old Mr Simon Heavyside painted about the fortieth year of his reign, in which the old bottle-nosed hero is depicted on an old crop-eared grizzled horse with a whitening-brush tail, a flat flapped saddle, and a snaffle bridle in his mouth. The squire, a good eighteen stoner, is attired in a velvet cap, with a squarish peak, from whose black sides a profusion of snow-white locks protrude, gathered and tied into a comprehensive pig-tail behind. His abundant, almost superabundant, single-breasted scarlet coat-laps reach a long way below the mahogany-coloured boot-tops, which are kept over the calf of the leg by a pair of broad tanned straps across the knee, thus showing a sufficiency of the bright blue woollen interregnum, a buff vest high in the throat and long in the waist, with ample flap-pockets, a straight spur, a spare stirrup leather across the shoulder, and a most formidable-looking hammer-headed whip, the thong dangling at the side of the leg, complete the costume of this ancient worthy. Around him are several couple of hounds, great long-eared lumbering animals, and in the distance sundry stacks of chimneys are seen in full smoke rising among the trees, indicative of the extent of hospitality at the Hall. It was said that no one ever left it either sad or sober—it was a sort of free public house for the country at large, and as the squire brewed his own ale, killed his own meat, and made his own cheese, there was a great deal of wear and tear for the teeth at no very serious sacrifice. At length the old trump being unable any longer to partake of the pleasures of the chase himself, bethought him of providing for the amusement of posterity by securing the continuance of his hounds in the country to which he was so much attached. To this end he made his will, of which the following is an extract:—

I Simon Heavyside, of Heavyside Hall, Esquyer, being of hole and perfect mind and memorie, thoughe verie craysed and sore wounded in body, do make this my last will and testament in manor and forme folowienge; that is to say: To my well beloved friends and brother sportsmene Oliver Rookeburn, of Ringland Hill, and Thomas Dawson, of Chaldon Hall, Esquiers, and their Heirs, all my most truly valuable hounde dogges, with the cooples them thereunto belonging, together with £62 by yere, or as much more as my landes in Lamsheles and Allenton will let for by the yeare, for the keep and maintenance of the saide hounde dogges, and their desendents for ever.

And he gave to his friend Tom Tidswell of Hayford for a token, his racking gray nage, alsoe to Joe Smith, of Westfield, his donne horse, and to Ned Armstrong, of Windrush, a browne horse that he bought of Nicholas Rattler.

And he ordered that his huntsman, George Grimwell should have meat and drink in his house during his life, with 40
. by the yere for tobacco and snuff.

And Simon being greatly respected, as most men with bobble noses are, the hunt resolved itself into a Heavyside club at his death, the members of which all took the surname of Heavyside, and addressed each other by the title of brother, sinking their own surnames and using the prefix to their Christian ones only, thus, brother Nicholas Heavyside, brother Solomon Heavyside, brother Timothy Heavyside, the parties' real names being Fairbank, Woodney, and Heaton. Then at the hunt dinners, the memory of their great founder was drunk standing with solemn silence, and those who had hunted with him and those who had wined with him shook their grey heads, and said they should never see his like again. But Time, the soother and reconciler, gradually lessened the veneration, as younger men with smaller waists and greater activity began to supply the places of the original members. Then they wanted a younger huntsman, quicker hounds, shorter runs, and smarter cords.

At first the mere mention of any innovation was looked upon as rank heresy, and the irritated elders peered over their formidable broad rimmed spectacles (for specs were specs in those days) to see who was guilty of such treason; but as the specs gradually gave way to eyes that could see, there was a growing inclination in favour of pace.

But Lawyer Lappy, who was an original Heavysider, and moreover had attained the distinguished weight of nineteen stone, insisted that according to the terms of the will the hounds must be the lineal descendants of the old stock, or they would forfeit the endowment, so they could do little in the way of improvement as long as the lawyer lived. At length Brother Lappy paid the debt of nature, whereupon the new generation abolished the term brother, and substituted a smart hunt button—dead gold with a bright border, and the letters H.H. entwined so affectionately and hieroglyphically together as to make it extremely difficult to say what they were. Then old Grimwell was turned adrift on his baccy and beer, the throaty old patriarchs of the pack were put in repose, and swallow tails superseded the flowing bed-gown like coats. Crop-eared horses disappeared, and whitening-brush tails were succeeded by long swiches.

Still there were always two parties in the hunt, those who admired the old system, and those who advocated the new, and Lawyer Lappy's oracular decision operated very prejudicially upon pace. They would not like to lose the rents, which had increased amazingly since Mr Heavyside's time. So they jangled and wrangled on season after season, each side declaring the others were the most stupid and impracticable people imaginable. At length they got to the point of dissention that resulted in the application to Mr Romford. They could bear each other no longer, and wrote to know if Mr Romford would undertake to hunt their country three days a week for £800 a year, each side being determined to screw the other up to the utmost.

Now though £800 a year seems a very small sum when compared with the book estimates, and considering the great opportunities a pack of hounds afford for spending money, yet £800 a year well administered will go a good way towards sport, especially with a man like Mr Romford, who knew the value of money, and meant to work the thing himself. Then too the H.H. had a fat huntsman, one Jonathan Lotherington, who absorbed the best part of £100 a year, and yet wouldn't ride over a water furrow, an aggravating circumstance to gentlemen who liked to see a man come gallantly over a hedge, and calculate what they themselves would do or try to do it for. This £100 Facey would save by hunting the hounds himself, and there were many other little items that he knew how to lop off or reduce. Of course he didn't tell the H.H. gentlemen this; on the contrary, he pooh-poohed the subscription, declaring it would do nothing for him, but that was only to excite them to further endeavours, and enforce the propriety of early and punctual payment. He determined from the first not to miss it, unless of course he saw his way to something better.

Indeed he talked, or rather wrote, so magnificently that some of them wished he mightn't be too great a man for their money. Lucy, who wrote a good hand and managed the literary department for him, was much struck with the grandeur of his views, and wondered that a gentleman who could do so much should make such a noise about a trumpery sivin pun ten. Meanwhile the H.H. gentlemen were staunch and anxious, only too eager to close with such a desirable gentleman, and the anxiety was not diminished by a reference to Burke, which showed that the owner of Abbeyfield Park was a bachelor, heir presumptive, his brother Augustus Umfreville.

BOOK: Mr Facey Romford's Hounds
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