The Great Play Hunt

by Rudyrard Kiplng

[4 pages]

PLEASE! Door! Open Door! . . . This is me—Boots—which told you all those things about my true friend Ravager at Walk and Mister-Kent-Peoples and Kitchen Cat and Master-Missus and Smallest, when I were almost Pup. Now I am ’sponsible dog, rising eight. I know all about Peoples’ talkings. No good saying r-a-t-s or w-a-l-k-s to me. I know! (Slippers too.)

Slippers is ’sponsible for Smallest, risen seven and a half, because Smallest belongs to Missus. And Slippers too. I help. It is very fine Smallest. It has sat on Tall Horse, which is called Magistrate, in front of that White Man which was kind to Ravager at Walk, which I told you, which is called Moore-Kennel-Huntsman. It has learned to keep hands down and bump, and fall off proper, and all those things. Now he has own pony called Taffy-was-a-Welshman. He rides with Moore and Magistrate all-over-Park. We come with. And he goes to Meet when it is at Kennels. Master-Missus say he must not real-hunt-just-yet. He does not like and says. I come to Meets with James in kennel-that-moves because of those dash new Hunt Terriers. I speak to my friend Ravager from next to steering-wheel, where I sit. He is best-hound-ever-was, Moore says. He walks close to near fore-leg of Magistrate. It is most ’sponsible place. He has nigh-half-choked Upstart for trying to take it, Moore says.

Now I will tell things and things like rats running.

First, ’was dash-bad business about Smallest in Old Nursery before brekker. There was hard tight collar. That new Nursey, which is called Guvvy, pinched under neck. Smallest said about boney old Lady-Hound. Guvvy said-and-said and shook Smallest. We shook too—one each side her middle dress. We did not nip. It tore of herself. Missus came up quick. Guvvy said all-about-all again. We wented downstairs quick. Missus called to Master. He said: ‘Come here, you two sweeps!’ There was Proper Whacking with own cutty-whip. But we did not nip that Guvvy. There was whack-whack for Smallest too. He was put in corner till ‘I-am-sorry.’ We went with to sit by, same as always with old Nursey. Missus said: ‘I will not have my son’s education perverted by two ’sreputable curs.’ There was order not to be with Smallest all whole day. And nothing gived under-table at brekker. So we wented to dust-bin, which I can open with my nose. House not comfy because of Guvvy saying about us to our Adar. Our Adar said ‘P’raps I ought to have warned you, but now you have had your lesson. Of course, Slippers will never forgive you for touching Master Digby, and as for that Boots, he can bear malice for months!’ After dust-bin I said Slippers: ‘Come for walk-about.’ He said ‘Own-God-Master always wants you help him walk-about after brekker.’ I said: ‘I do not want Own God. I did not nip that Guvvy-Lady-Hound. Come with.’ Slippers said: ‘They have put soap on my Smallest’s teeth for badwording. He is kennelled up in Old Nursery. I will stay at home. P’raps he will wave me out of window.’ So I took myselfs to Walk, where Mister-Kent-Peoples is. I were nice to Mister-Kent’s two Frilly Smalls, which I know since they came. There was bread and butter and sugar. There was: ‘Run along to school now, dearies.’ I wented with to take care. There was lots more Smalls going to school, which I all knew. I ran sticks for them. There was two pieces gingerbread and two sweeties. Then I wented back to Walk because I were hungry. There was two hen-heads outside ferret-kennel box. They were nice. There was Lady-Hen in barn hatching eggs. They were good. There was Ben-sheep-dog, which was tied up because of meddy that morning. He had left his bone out too far. I took away to Mice-field where Wood’s Edge comes down behind Walk. I caught four mices by jumping-on through grass. There was some of very old rabbit lying about. But bad fur. So I unhad all which was inside me, and wented into Woods for drink in Middle Ride. And sleeped. When I unsleeped, there was that old Fox which Ravager calls Tags, because he has very fine brush. He is dash-old but dash-wise, Ravager says. There was steel-trap on near-fore. He was biting-out foot. He said: ‘If I am found like this, it is finish-for-me.’ I said: ‘There is no Meet to-day.’ He said: ‘Every day is Meet for that dash-Ben-cur-dog.’ I said: ‘Ben is tied up. He has took meddy.’ Tags said: ‘Then there is a chance.’ He bited his foot, same as me with thorns. He bited off two toes, and licked and licked. He said: ‘’Serves me right for being dash-fool, my time-of-life.’ He said it were two-nice-kind-ladies, long ways off, across railway line in Cotswold country (because Tags does not kill at home), which took hens to be killed in kennels-that-move, which had set trap under hen-house floor, with chicken which he could see. He tried to rake out. Trap caught two toes. He came home with—four miles—all through the night-times. He said he could not kill for himself for long whiles now, because of sore toes. I said: ‘There is a big bone and four mices in Micefield, and some of old rabbit.’ He said: ‘Good enough! Tell Ravager I am as lame as trees. I am two toes short. I will lie up for rest of season. Then I will go to my-home-among-the-rocks-in-Wales, if I can keep living alive.’

I wented back to Walk, because I were hungry again. Ben said me lots about his bone. I said back. I danced. A Kent Frilly Small came and said: ‘There is Boots playing so pretty with Ben. May I take him home, in case he will lose himself?’ I were very nice. But first was tea in Kent-kitchen with Frilly Smalls—bread and hamjuice. Then I took that Frilly back careful to own back-door. Adar said: ‘Lost? Him? Boots? Never, me dear!’ Own Gods was at tea. But not Smallest. Slippers sat close by door making sorrowful sniffles which Own Gods do not like. (I helped.) Master said: ‘Dash-it-all, if the house is to be run by this blackguard Trades Union of ours, accept it. Have Digby down!’ Smallest came down to tea. We was all-over-him. There was tea-cake and two sugars and ginger-biscuits. Missus said: ‘Do you think Boots spent the whole day looking for Smallest?’ Master said: ‘Not if I know Boots.’ Own Gods began talking Master-Missus way. We wented to help Smallest kennel-up. I played smelling rats and looking rat-holes in Old Nursery. I ran about and growled dretful. Guvvy did not like because of her feet. But I did not ever nip that Guvvy—more than Tags ever killed at Walk. (Slippers too.) ’Was dash silly business for me afterwards—my time-o’-life. Guvvy told Missus about rat-holes. Missus told Master. Master told James to look and stop rat-holes. James told Old Nursery was tight as bottles everywhere. Adar said me in scullery after: ‘Boots, you come along o’ me.’ I wented up with. I were not comfy. Adar said: ‘Now you find those precious rat-holes of yours.’ I played looky-sniffy hard. But it were play rat-holes. I went paws-up. Adar said: ‘I thought so, you little devil!’ She took by collar and rubbed nose hard in corner, same as if I were pup being taught House. I were very angry. I wented under bed. She pulled me out by tail. She said ‘You black-hearted little villain! But I love yer for it!’ And she kissed me same as Small Pup. I were dretful ‘shamed. But I did not ever nip that Guvvy.

Now I tell new things. Please sit up!

There was plenty-rides always with Smallest and Moore in Park. Smallest wanted to real-hunt dretful bad, but Master-Missus said not-just-yet-awhile. Moore did not say except to James at Meet, when Smallest tried to quick-up that Taffy with safety-pin. Moore saw. He said James: ‘My money is on the young entry.’ I said Ravager all those things which Tags had told me about his sore toes. Ravager said: ‘Tell Tags I am dash-sorry for him. He has given me as much as I could do for five seasons, and he was not chickens then. I hope he will lie-at-earth till leaves-on, because business is business.’ Next whiles I was at Middle Ride I told Tags what Ravager had said. Tags said his toes was not so sore, and if it were early spring, he could keep living alive—somehow.

Time whiles after that, ’was Meet at Kennels. Master-Missus said Smallest could begin real-hunting at cubbing-times next September. Smallest was dretful good, and talked Master-Missus and Slippers how he would hunt, till bedtime. I told my friend Ravager all those things, when I speaked loud to him next Meet, before all the Hounds. He said: ‘I will show that Smallest a thing or two when he comes up. He is keen-stuff.’

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Time whiles after that, Shiny Plate got up strong, and made-sing. Adar looked out from high-up, and said: ‘Quiet!’ We played Rattle-chain round our kennels. Adar said: ‘Drat!’ She came and unloosed, like she always does when we do enough. We went for walk-abouts in Gardens and Orchard like we always do when she does. It were fun. Then we heard ‘Lost Hound ’like long ways off, but not proper singing. We said: ‘Who is? Come here.’ It said: ‘I do not know where “here” is. I do not see.’ I said: ‘That is Ravager. Rabbit it!’ We rabbited through Orchard. There was Ravager. But he walked side-ways, head-twisty-very dretful. I said loud. He did not know. He said: ‘I will go quick to Kennels.’ But he went round and round. He said: ‘’Ware Kennel-that-Moves!’ Slippers said: ‘It is strange new ’stemper-dog inside Ravager. ’Same what Cookey gave me egg-an-brandy-for.’ Ravager said: ‘Where is my own place on the Bench?’ But he bumped trees and twisted. We were afraid. We came each one side him. We came to own kennels . . . . He fell down between. We licked his head because it were bleedy. After long whiles he said: ‘Where is this?’ We said: ‘This is Boots and Slippers.’ He tried to go away to Kennels. He could not lift. We lay close and licked and licked till Adar pulled back kitchen-curtains for brekker. We said. She came quick. (Cookey too.) There was egg-an-brandy, as-fast-as-you-can. Master-Missus and Smallest came quick after. James went in Kennel-that-Moves to get Vet-Peoples out-of-bed-by-his-hair. Moore and Magistrate came quick too, because Ravager had not cast-up at Kennels last night, and Upstart had fought Egoist for Ravager’s place on sleepy-bench, and Kennels was all-of-a-nuproar. Moore said small to Ravager, but Ravager did not say back. Moore and Master put him on potting-bench in shed after Harry-with-Spade had broomed out and got small stove lighted. Smallest was took away to brekker, saying loud. Vet-Peoples did dretful things to Ravager’s head. There was put-him-to-bed after. Moore set away straw same as at Kennels. Ravager tail-thumped two small times. We was let lie. We licked and we licked his head. Vet said he had lost one eye for always and not-much-chance for other. He said it were some-dash-motor. And Ravager were sick dog!

All those whiles, Smallest came to sit with, ’cept only when Guvvy took away, or it was rides in Park. Me too, except if Master wanted me help him walk-about farms. One time I saw Tags in Wood Edge. I told about Ravager. He said: ‘I knew it the same night. It were that kennel-that-moves of the nice-kind-ladies in the Cotswold country, which takes hens to be killed. Tell Ravager I am dash-sorry; because eyes are worse than legs. Tell him to come over some day when it is leaves-on, and we will talk old runs. We are both finished now; and no-bad-feelings.’ And he said: ‘Licking is best for cuts. Look at my toes!’ And he said he was killing again off nice-kind-hen-killer-ladies, which was sending bill to the Cotswold and Heythrop. He said they was Prize Cockerels, but it were dash-difficult to get bellyful these hard late frosts. I said: ‘There is fine dust-bin at our place. I can lift lid with nose. We will not tell.’ Tags said me: ‘If your legs was good as your heart, I could not live for three fields in front of you. I am ashamed—’my-timeof-life—to go dust-binning. But I will come. Tell Ravager not to make a song about it, if he winds me.’ So he came to our dust-bin all quiet.

Whiles after that, Ravager was unsick Hound again. He said he had had thorn in foot at end of that run. He turned out on grass to bite it out, by gate of nice-kind-ladies where Tags killed chickens. Ladies was taking hens to be killed, lots-and-plenty, in kennel-that-moves. They skidded kennel on grass because they talked. They hit him into ditch, and he was made into strange blind dog. I told him about Tags and dust-bin. He said: ‘That is all proper. Tell him to come and talk me old runs together, because we are both out-of-it now.’

Time whiles after that, Ravager got down off bench and ate grass. He said me: ‘I will go to my Kennels and speak them all there. Come with, because I do not see except my near side, and dash-little there.’ Slippers said: ‘It is riding-times for my Smallest. I will wait.’ So I wented with Ravager. I put me his off-side in case if he bumped. We wented slow up middle of Park, which he knew by nose. Kennels was shut. Moore and Magistrate was coming to take Smallest for ride. Proper Man were there too, with new-four-year-old. I sat down outside, because I do not like those dash new Hunt Terriers. Ravager put up nose and said very long at Kennel Gates. There was dretful noise inside Kennels, all together, one time, and stop. Proper Man said Moore: ‘I did not think this would have to happen.’ Moore said: ‘I saw it once when I was stable-boy to the Marquis, me Lord.’ Proper Man said: ‘Let him in and get it over, ‘Pity’s sake!’ Ravager was let go in. He went to window looking into Hounds’ sleepy-bench. He lifted himself up slow on sill, and looked them with his near eye. He did not say. There was one time more dretful noise inside, together, and stop. Then he did say very long, same as Lost Hound. Then he looked in, and ’was one more dretful cry inside. He dropped down. He came out. I said: ‘What is?’ He said: ‘Upstart has my place on bench. I will go riding with Smallest.’ Proper Man said Moore: ‘Come on!’ But Magistrate’s girths was slack. Moore tighted up very careful. Proper Man blew his nose angry and said: ‘You are as big dash-fool as your Master.’ We wented back to Smallest. Proper Man told Smallest Ravager would not ever come to Kennels any more, and gave him for very own to keep always. Master-Missus put in old Labrador Kennels by vegetable gardens, with day-and-night-bench, but never locked, so he could come and go like-he-felt. (I can open that with my nose too.)

After that, ’was plenty ridings in Park, because Magistrate had thick-leg and wanted gentle-summer-exercise. Those times, Smallest said all about real-hunting, same as always. Moore said, if Ravager could speak, he could show Smallest more than Master-or-Me. He said all about real-hunts and Ravager, and Romeo and Regan, and Royal and Rachel, and Rupert and Ristori, which was all Ravager’s fathers and mothers; and Foxes and Scents and casting hounds, and those fine things. Smallest found small red rumpet in Old Nursery, and played it were Horn-on-a-fine-hunting-morn. Moore showed how to squeak with. Ravager showed Slippers and me how to answer to Horn same as Sporting Pack. It were fun.

’Was one time when leaves-was-all-on, Shiny Plate came up strong and made-sing. We played Rattle-chain till Adar loosed, like she always does. We went to see Ravager, like we always do then. ’Was Tags outside old Labrador Kennels down-wind under gooseberries, like he does when he comes for talk. There was big say-and-say about old runs with Ravager and Tags. They did not say same about things. Slippers said ‘No use worrying dead rats.’ Ravager said ‘Better worrying dead rats than no rats ever.’ Slippers said: ‘I know a good rat. Make a new run by your two selves. Make a run for my Smallest.’ Ravager said: ‘He will come up with the young entry for cubbing in September. He will learn soon enough then.’ Slippers said: ‘But show him a run now by yourselves; because you and Tags are dash-cunning at both ends of the game.’ Tags said: ‘That looks like sound Rabbit. Bolt him.’ Slippers said: ‘Make my Smallest a play-hunt up and down Wood Edge Rides. That Taffy is all grass-belly. He cannot jump, but he can wiggle through anywhere. Make a play-hunt up and down all Wood Rides.’ I said: ‘And across Park, and plenty checks for me to keep with Ravager in case if he bumps.’ Ravager said: ‘I will not bump. I know every inch of the Park by nose. I will not bump.’ Tags said: ‘I am lame. I am fat. I am soon going to Brecknock.’ Ravager said: ‘You are too much dust-bin. ’Do you good to have a spin in the open before you leave. ’Do us both good.’ Tags said: ‘That is Shiny-Plate-talk.’ But he waggled his brush. Ravager said: ‘What about scent this time-of-year?’ Slippers said: ‘Make it point-to-point, same as Hunt Races, and dash-all-scents.’ Ravager said: ‘But I must show our Smallest how proper hounds work. He must see a-little-bit-of-all-sorts.’ Tags said: ‘My toes tell me that when Shiny Plate sits down this morning, rain will come, and scent will lie.’ Ravager said: ‘You ought to know. Now, worry out run for Smallest.’ So there were proper worry—like all shaking same rat—abour line-of-country for Smallest’s play-hunt. It were across Park from Wood’s Edge Rides by Cattle Lodge and Little Water to Starling Wood, and saying good-bye to all kind friends at The Kennels, and finish at Made Earths by Stone Wall on County road, because, Tags said, that were his back-door to the Berkeley Country for Wales. Slippers and me helped lots. Then rain came, like Tags’ toes said.

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Morning-time ’was finished raining. Moore came with Magistrate—which had thick-leg and smelly bandage—only-for-gentle-work. Smallest took rumpet with, and own cracky whip, same as always. Ravager ran near-side Taffy. Me too. We wented up by Micefields to Middle Ride because of soft going, Moore said. In Middle Ride ’was Tags waiting like he said he would. Moore said: ‘Dash his impertininces! Look at him!’ Ravager gave tongue and wented up Ride. Me too. Smallest sticked hand behind ear and squealed proper. Tags scuttled limpity, but dash-quick. Magistrate see-sawed like that thing in Old Nursery. Moore said: ‘’Old ’ard, you silly summer-fool, you! Come back, Master Digby!’ Smallest said: ‘Hike to Ravager Forrard on!’ We rabbited down Middle Ride —’normous long way. Tags turned right-handed into cover at Keeper’s Oak, so he could slip into Park by Beech Hedge Gaps and Three Oaks, like he said he would. It were thick cover. We took it easy because it were hot. I keeped beside Ravager because he did not see. Tags said him in cover: ‘There is nothing wrong with your legs.’ Ravager said: ‘’Sorry if I pressed! I know Middle Ride by nose. That were not bad beginning.’ Moore said loud: ‘Come away, Master Digby. You won’t see any more of him. He’ll be through all manner of counties by now.’ Smallest said: ‘Don’t you hunt my hounds!’ Taffy pecked on ant-hill in fern. Smallest pitched forward, and hit face on Taffy’s head. His nose bleeded plenty. He wiped with hand across. Moore said: ‘What will I say to your Ma?’ Slippers said: ‘Ravager, draw down West Ride, where that Taffy can see his stoopid feet! “ Ravager spoke, and drew down West Ride over turf all proper, to Beech Hedge Gaps into Park by Three Oaks. Taffy wiggled through. Magistrate after. He were like bullocks. Moore was all leafy. He bad-worded Magistrate. Tags came out from behind Three Oaks like he said he would, and wented down Little Water. Smallest rumpeted. Moore said: ‘He ain’t ever going to cross the Park? Or is he? Dash if I make-it-out-at-all!’ Tags went by Little Water to Park Dingle. He crossed Water two times, like he said he would, and went along from Park Dingle to Larch Copse.

Ravager took up scent and worked along Little Water quite slow, to show Smallest proper-good-work. Moore said: ‘Watch, Master Digby! You’ll never see anything prettier in your life—young as you are!’ It were dretful strong scent. Slippers and me spoke to it loud. Ravager too. When we came to Larch Copse, where Tags had doubled, like he said he would, Ravager said: ‘Stop it, stoopids! We lose the Scent here.’ He threw up head, and went back to Taffy and Smallest, and sat down and scratched ear. (Slippers and me too.) Smallest said: ‘Shall I cast them?’ Moore said: ‘’Can’t have it both ways, Master Digby. They’re your ’ounds, not mine.’ Smallest put finger in mouth and bited, like he does when he does not know. Moore did not say. We did not say. After whiles (we did not say) Smallest rumpeted, and cast back other side Little Water to Park Dingle. Ravager said: ‘Our Smallest is no fool!’ We all worked hard on back-cast. Slippers said: ‘May I give tongue now for my Smallest? Scent is strong enough to kill pigs.’ So he were let give tongue. (Me too.) Ravager confirmed. Tags got out of Park Dingle like he said he would. We all rabbited for Cattle Lodge in Park, where once fat Bull was which we hunted. It were sound turf which Ravager knew by nose. That were Frocious Burst. I led Slippers to Lodge. Tags got under yard-gate. Ravager said me: ‘May I fly cattle-bars? I think the top one is down.’ I said: ‘It is up. Go under!’ He were dretful ashamed, but he did go under. We all sat in calf-shed, where water-trough is, and drinked. We were thirsty. After whiles, Moore said to Smallest outside: ‘What made you cast back at Larch Copse, sir?’ Smallest said: ‘If I were lame Fox pushed out of my Woods, I would try to get back.’ Moore said: ‘’Eaven be praised! You have it in you! I ’ave only ’elped fetch it out!’ Tags said Ravager: ‘It is time I left the country. Was anything wrong with my double? Did either you little ’uns give that cub of yours a lead about it?’ Slippers said: ‘I did try to help my Smallest by edging off. But he was angry, and told me off proper. That back-cast were all his own rat.’ Then Tags said Ravager: ‘Why did you run so mute down Little Water? Young ’uns are always keen on music, you know.’ Ravager said: ‘Sorry! That was my Mother’s fault, too, on a scent. She always preferred her work to her company. Same as me.’ Tags said: ‘Come on, then. Next point is Starling Wood. I shall work down old Drainage Ditch, taking it easy, and slip in by Duck’s Hollow. It will be more little-bit-of-all-sorts for your Smallest.’

Tags broke to view behind Cattle Lodge, like he said he would. There were scurry over turf to Old Ditch. He dropped in. It were deep—with brambles. We took it easy. Smallest said loud, because he could not see. Moore said: ‘They are working their hearts out for you in there, Master Digby. Don’t press ’em. Don’t press!’ Ravager said Tags: ‘Show a bit, now and then. The Young Entry are all for blood, you know.’ So Tags showed up two-three-times edge of ditch. And Smallest squealed and was happy-pup. At Ditch-end Tags said: ‘Come through Duck’s Hollow quiet, and ’ware new hurdles.’ So we did. Starling Wood was hurdled tight. Ravager took hurdles flying skew-ways, because he saw them a little. I were uncomfy of my friend Ravager. I did not know what he would fall on—same as me with lawnmower and the pheasant-bird. But it were only thistles. He said: ‘Sorry! I forgot I were blind dog.’

We all sat. It were stinky, eggy, feathery birdy place—all sticks. Ravager said Tags: ‘Moore never puts hounds in here. We do not like it, and Scent don’t lie.’ Tags said: ‘But Moore does, and Foxes cannot be dash-particular.’ Moore and Smallest came riding outside. We sat still. Moore said: ‘He can’t be there, Master Digby! No fox uses where starlings use. The Hounds won’t look at Starling Wood.’ Smallest said: ‘You said hunting is what-can’t-happen happenin’ dash-always.’ Moore said: ‘Yes, but he’s gone on to make his point across the Park. Come ’ome and wash your face ’fore any one sees.’ Smallest said: ‘And lose my Fox?’ Moore said: ‘Then get ’old of ’em and cast forward.’ Smallest did not say. He took rumpet off his saddle and held out to Moore. Moore would not take. He wented over all red in his face. He said: ‘I most ’umbly apologise, Master Digby. I do indeed.’ Slippers said: ‘I do not know this rat.’ Ravager said: ‘He is giving his horn to Moore, because Moore knows so dash-well how to find his fox.’ Tags said Ravager: ‘’Better speak a little, or Moore will lose me—same as last season.’ Ravager speaked. Smallest said: ‘He is there! Ravager can’t lie. You said so yourself. Get down-wind quick!’ Moore wented. He hit Magistrate proper. Slippers said: ‘Why did Moore not take my Smallest’s rumpet?’ Ravager said: ‘Moore is too dash-ashamed of himself for trying to hunt another man’s hounds—same as that snipey-nose-man which The Master gave his horn to, because he said he was whip to the Bathsheba Lady-Pack.’ Tags said Slippers: ‘Come with! Here is another bit-of-all-sorts for your Smallest.’ They wented where wood was stinkiest. Big cub ran out under hurdles at Smallest. Slippers after. Smallest did not like. He said: ‘Fresh fox! ’Ware cub! Hike back to Ravager, you dash-lap-dog!’ And cut at Slippers with cracky-whip. And hit. Slippers came back quick. He said Tags had said him to-push-out-that-youngster-and-see-how-Smallest-took-it. Moore came round cover. Smallest said: ‘I have bad-worded Slippers. I have cut at my own Slippers!’ Moore said: ‘Don’t take that to heart! You can bad-word every one at cover-side ’cept your own Pa-an-Ma and The-Master-an-Me.’ Tags said: ‘I think I will start for Fan Dringarth to-night. This is going to be dash-poor country for cripples next season.’ Ravager said: ‘Have a heart! Stay and keep me company.’ Tags said: ‘I would, but I have only one brush. Now, next point is Made Earths at Stone Wall on County road, where I go under for Dean Forest. Ravager said: ‘Made Earths is tight as drainpipes. You cannot get-away-out-of till dark.’ Tags said: ‘Drain-pipes heave in frost. Then Badgers work ’em. But first we say farewell to all kind friends at The Kennels. There will be check at New Firs. You little ’uns drop out there, and take it easy up to Fir Knoll, till we come back from Long Dip. Then join in for rattling finish.’

Slippers said: ‘That Taffy cannot gallop to keep himself warm.’ Ravager said: ‘But Magistrate wants three-new-legs. We will take care of them. Now play proper Pack. Get away together!’

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Tags broke under Taffy’s nose. ’Was most beautiful cry, and Adar could have covered with sheets. After that I were not so quick as Ravager. It were falling ground and sound turf, which Ravager knew by nose. ’Was nice check at New Firs, like Tags said. Slippers and me dropped out. Presently whiles, Tags broke to view down Long Dip. Ravager on his brush. It were real business. Slippers and me wented to Fir Knoll and watched. Taffy and Smallest was littler and littler in Long Dip. Moore and Magistrate too. Tags and Ravager was littlest, farthest ways off, by Summer Kennels Yard. We heard Ravager speak most beautiful outside there. ’Was dretful common noises in Summer Kennels—like common dogs which cannot hunt when they want. I were happy-dog, because I do not like Upstart and Egoist. Nor new Hunt Terriers. (Slippers too.) We danced and singed.

Presently after whiles, Tags came up from Long Dip to Fir Knoll, dragging brush very limpity. He said: ‘I am Sinking Fox! Ravager is Lost Hound! Taffy is cooked! Magistrate is fit-to-boil! Come along, little ’uns, and Devil-take-short-legs!’ We rabbited. That were t’rific Burst. I headed Ravager for little whiles. We came to Made Earths screaming for blood. Tags got to ground in front of Ravager’s front-teeth which was like rat-traps. We all wented singing down into the dark. We sat, tongues-out. Ravager said: ‘Top-hole finish!’ Tags said: ‘Not bad, our-time-of-life. That last point was quite a mile.’ Ravager said: ‘I make the run four mile from start to finish. You are too good for those Welshmen. Keep with us.’ Tags said: ‘Not with that youngster coming on. But he is Sportsman. Hark to him!’ ’Was Smallest outside and Taffy blowing. Smallest said loud ‘He were lame! Don’t let them get him! He are lame! Call ’em off, Moore, an’ we’ll look for that dash-cub.’ And he rumpeted plenty. Moore said: ‘We ’ave done enough for one July day, Master Digby. ’Ere’s ’is Lordship coming, and I’ll never ’ear the last of it.’ Tags said Ravager: ‘I think you will be wanted for hunting out of season. I am going to Wales. You are true Sporting Lot.’ And Tags backed into Made Earths, which are his road to his home-among-the-rocks, where drain-tiles was heaved up and Badgers helped, like he said he would, till we could not see his eye-shine any more. Ravager called after: ‘You are best of them all, Tags!’ But Tags did not say back.

We wented outside. There was Proper Man on Tall Horse coming slow from Kennels. Ravager said: ‘He is not our Master now. Play proper Pack.’ We lay down round Taffy, which was shaking tail, and girths-loosed, and Smallest making-much-of. Ravager did head-on-paws, and looked Smallest. I did thorn-in-foot. Slippers did burrs-in-tail. Moore did feeling Magistrate’s thick-leg, and brushing leaves out of his front. Proper Man came up slow. He took off cap to Smallest. He said: ‘Bowfront Hunt, I presume. ’Trust your Grace is satisfied with amnities of my country.’ Smallest said: ‘’Gone to ground. But it were spiffing run. I hunted own hounds. Listen, Uncle!’ And he said and he said, like he can, about things, from find-to-finish. Proper Man said Moore: ‘When you have quite done bot’nizing all over your belly, p’raps you will let me know.’ Moore said: ‘My fault, me Lord. All my fault. I ’aven’t a shadow of an excuse. I was whip to one lame fox, one blind ’ound, two lap-dogs, and a baby! And it was the run of me life. A bit-of-all-sorts, as you might say, me Lord, laid out as if it was meant to show Master Digby multum-in-parvo, so to speak. And may I never ’unt again, me Lord, if it ’asn’t made ’im!’ Proper Man said: ‘Let’s have every last yard of it.’ Moore said and said: Smallest said and said, all one piece mixed. Proper Man asked about Tags’ double, and Smallest’s back-cast, and Scent and Starling Wood, and all those things, lots-and-plenty. He said it were babes-and-sucklings. We did not say. We tail-thumped when names was said, but no dash-parlour-tricks. We was proper Pack.

’Middle of say-so, Kennel-that-Moves came down County road with Missus, which had been shoppings. She stopped and overed wall in one. She came quick. She said: ‘Digby! Look at your face!’ Smallest said: ‘Oh, I forgot, Taffy pecked and pitched me forward.’ She said: ‘In you get with me, and have it washed off.’ Smallest said: ‘Oh, Uncle!’ Proper Man said: Let him take his hounds home, Polly. He has earned it.’ Missus said: ‘Then I will take Boots and Slippers. They don’t hunt.’ But we would not. She said. James said. Smallest did not say. So we would not go in Kennel-that-Moves. We wented all across Park with Ravager and Smallest and Taffy and Moore and Magistrate and Proper Man to Own Kennels-like proper Pack.