The Art of Entertaining Part 28
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Ladies, with their children, come to these breakfasts, which are sumptuous affairs. Great rounds of cold beef, game patties, and salads are spread out. All sorts of drinks, from beer up to champagne, are offered. One of the ladies of the house sits at the head of the table, with a large antique silver urn before her, and with tea and coffee ready for those who wish these beverages.
Some girls come on horseback, and look very pretty in their habits.
These Dianas cut slices of beef and make impromptu sandwiches for their friends outside who have not dismounted. The daughters of the house stand on the steps while liveried servants hand around cake and wine, and others carry foaming tankards of ale, and liberal slices of cheese, among the farmers and attendants of the kennel.
It is an in-door and an out-door feast. The hounds are gathered in a group, the huntsman standing in the centre cracking his whip, and calling each hound by his name. Two or three masters of neighbouring packs are talking to the master of the hounds, a prominent gentleman of the county, who holds fox-hunting as something sacred, and the killing of a fox otherwise than in a legitimate manner as one of the seven deadly sins.
Twelve o'clock strikes, and every one begins to move. Generally the throw off is at eleven, but in honour of this breakfast a delay has been allowed. The huntsman mounts his horse and blows his horn; the hounds gather around him, and the whole field starts out. They are going to draw the covers at some large plantation above the park. The earths, or fox-holes, have been stopped for miles around, so that the fox once started has no refuge to make for, and is compelled to give the horses a run. It is a fine, manly sport, for with all the odds against him, the fox often gets away.
It is a pretty sight. The hounds go first, with nose to the ground, searching for the scent. The hunters and whippers-in, professional sportsmen, in scarlet coats and velvet jockey caps, ride immediately next to them, followed by the field. In a little while a confusion of rumours and cries is heard in the wood, various calls are blown on the horn, and the frequent cracking of high whips, which sound is used to keep the hounds in order, has all the effect of a succession of pistol shots. Hark! the fox has broken cover, and a repeated cry of "Tally Ho!" bursts from the wood. Away go the hounds, full cry, and what sportsmen call their music, something between a bay and a yelp, is indeed a pleasant sound, heard as it always is under circ.u.mstances calculated to give it a romantic character. Many ladies and small boys are amongst the followers of the chase. As soon as a boy can sit on his pony he begins to follow the hounds. A fox has no tail and no feet in hunting parlance, he has only a brush and pads. The lady who is in at the death receives the brush, and the man the pads, as a rule.
The hunt is a privileged inst.i.tution in England, and can make gaps in hedges and break down walls with impunity. The farmer never complains if his wheat and turnip fields are ruined by the sport, nor does a lady complain if her flower garden and ornamental arbour be laid in ruins. The wily fox who has made such a skilful run must be followed at any cost.
Shooting is, however, the favourite sport of all Englishmen. Both pheasants and partridges are first carefully reared; the eggs generally purchased in large quant.i.ties, hatched by hens, and the birds fed through the summer with meal and other appropriate food. The gamekeepers take the greatest pride in the rearing of these birds.
The pheasant is to the Englishman what the ibis was to the Egyptian.
They are let loose in the woods only when nearly full-grown. When the covers are full, and a good bag is to be expected, the first of October is a regular feast-day; a large party is asked, and a variety of costumes makes the scene picturesque. Red or purple stockings, knickerbockers of stout cloth or velveteen, a shooting-jacket of rough heavy material, and stout shoes make up the costume. The ladies collect after breakfast to see the party start out, a rendezvous is agreed upon, and luncheon or tea brings them together at either two or five o'clock, under a sheltering hedge on the side of a wood. The materials for an ample meal are brought to the appointed place, and a gay picnic ensues.
Though shooting is a sport in which more real personal work is done by those who join in it, and in which skill is a real ingredient, still it is neither so characteristic nor so picturesque as fox-hunting.
There, a firm seat in the saddle, a good horse, and a determination to ride straight across country, are all that is needed for the majority of the field. In shooting much patience is required, besides accuracy of aim, and a judicious knowledge of when and how to shoot.
When we consider that hunting is the fas.h.i.+on which Americans are trying to follow, in a country without foxes, we must concede that success must be the result of considerable hard study. The fox is an anise-seed bag, but stone walls and high rail fences often make a stiffer country to ride over than any to be found abroad. In England there are no fences.
As an addition to the art of entertaining, hunting is a very great boon, and a hunt breakfast at the Westchester Hunting Club is as pretty a sight as possible.
In America, the sport began in Virginia in the last century, and no doubt in our great West and South it will some day become as recognized an inst.i.tution as in England. We have room enough for it, too much perhaps. Shooting should become, from the Adirondacks to the Mississippi, a recognized sport, as it was once a necessity. If Americans could devote five months of the year to sport, as the Englishmen do, they might rival Great Britain. Unfortunately, Americans are bringing down other kinds of game. We cannot help thinking, however, that shooting a buck in the Adirondacks is a more manly sport than shooting one in England.
No one who has ever had the privilege will forget his first drive through the delights of an English park. The herds of fallow deer that haunt the ferny glades beneath the old oaks and beeches, are kept both for show and for the table; for park-fed venison is a more delicious morsel than the flesh of the Scotch red deer, that runs wild on the moor. White, brown, and mottled, with branching antlers which serve admirably for offensive and defensive weapons, the deer browse in groups; the does and fawns generally keeping apart from the more lordly bucks. The park-keeper knows them all, and when one is shot, the hides, hoofs, and antlers become his perquisites.
The method of shooting a buck is, however, this: The keeper's a.s.sistant drives the herd in a certain direction previously agreed upon. The sight is a very pretty one. The keeper stations himself, rifle in hand, in the fork of some convenient tree along the route. He takes aim at the intended victim, and at the ominous report the scared herd scampers away faster than ever, leaving their comrade to the knives of the keeper. It is very much like going out to shoot a cow. There is occasionally an attempt to renew the scenes of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest, and the hounds are let out, but it is a sham after all, as they are trained not to kill the deer. The stag in this instance is given a start, being carried bound in a cart to a certain point, whence he is released and the chase commences. Thus the same stag may be hunted a number of times and be none the worse for it,--which is not the way they do it in the Adirondacks.
American venison is a higher flavoured meat than English, and should be only partly roasted before the fire, then cut in slices half-raw, placed on a chafing-dish with jelly and gravy, and warmed and cooked before the guest to ensure perfection.
A Polish officer of distinction has sent me the following account of hunting in his province:--
"We do not hunt the fox as in England. He is shot when met in a drive, or worried out of his subterranean castle by a special breed of dogs, the Dachshund, or Texel; or if young cubs are suspected to be in the hole the exits so far as known are closed, a shaft sunk to the centre, and the whole brood extinguished.
"We ride to hounds after hare, and the speed of a fox-hunt is nothing when compared with a cruise of the hare; for the greyhound, used for the latter, can beat any fox hound in racing. No one would ever think of water-killing deer as is done in the Adirondacks, and woe unto him who kills a doe!
"The old-fas.h.i.+oned way to kill the wild boar is to let him run at you, then kneel on one knee holding a hunting knife, or cutla.s.s, double-edged. The boar infuriated by the dogs rushes at you. If well directed, the knife enters his breast and heart; if it does not, then look out. This is what is called pig-sticking in India. Old Emperor William hunted the boar in the Royal Forests near Berlin, and King Humbert does the same in the mountains near Rome.
"Bird hunting, that of snipe, woodc.o.c.k, partridge, quail, and waterfowl, is done in the same way as here, excepting the use of duck batteries.
"There is very little big game to be found in Europe, that is, in the civilized parts of it, but in some forests belonging to royalty and that ilk, the elk, the stag, the bear, and the wild boar, present themselves as a target, and bison are to be found in Russia. The elk is purely royal game in Prussia.
"Southern or Upper Silesia is called the Prussian Ireland, and was famous for hunting-parties; ladies would join, and we would drive home with lighted torches attached to our sleighs."
These accounts of hunting-parties are introduced into the Art of Entertaining as they each and all contain hints which may be of use to the future American entertainer.
THE GAME OF GOLF.
As an addition to one's power of entertaining one's self, "golf affords a wide field of observation for the philosopher and the student of human nature. To play it aright requires nerve, endurance, and self-control, qualities which are essential to success in all great vocations; on the other hand, golf is peculiarly trying to the temper, although it must be said that when the golfer forgets himself his outbursts are usually directed against inanimate objects, or showered upon his own head." How it may take possession of one is well described in this little poem from the "St. James Gazette:"--
"Would you like to see a city given over, Soul and body, to a tyrannizing game?
If you would, there's little need to be a rover, For St. Andrews is that abject city's name.
"It is surely quite superfluous to mention, To a person who has been here half an hour, That Golf is what engrosses the attention Of the people, with an all-absorbing power.
"Rich and poor alike are smitten with the fever; 'Tis their business and religion both to play; And a man is scarcely deemed a true believer Unless he goes at least a round a day.
"The city boasts an old and learned college, Where you'd think the leading industry was Greek; Even there the favoured instruments of knowledge Are a driver, and a putter, and a cleek.
"All the natives and the residents are patrons Of this royal, ancient, irritating game; All the old men, all the young men, maids and matrons, With this pa.s.sion burn in hard and gem-like flame.
"In the morning, as the light grows strong and stronger, You may see the players going out in shoals; And when night forbids their playing any longer, They will tell you how they did the different holes.
"Golf, golf, golf, and golf again, is all the story!
Till despair my overburdened spirit sinks; Till I wish that every golfer was in glory, And I pray the sea may overflow the links.
"Still a slender, struggling ray of consolation Comes to cheer me, very feeble though it be; There are two who still escape infatuation, One's my bosom friend McFoozle, t'other's me.
"As I write the words McFoozle enters blus.h.i.+ng, With a bra.s.sy and an iron in his hand; And this blow, so unexpected and so crus.h.i.+ng, Is more than I am able to withstand.
"So now it but remains for me to die, sir.
Stay! There is another course I may pursue.
And perhaps, upon the whole, it would be wiser, I will yield to fate and be a golfer, too!"
"The game of golf," says Andrew Lang, its gifted poet and its historian, "has been described as putting little b.a.l.l.s into holes difficult to find, with instruments which are sadly inadequate and illy adapted to the purpose." Its learned home is St. Andrews, in Scotland, although its advocates give it several cla.s.sic starting-points. Learned antiquarians seem to think that the name comes from a Celtic word, meaning club. It is certainly an ancient game, and some variation of it was known on the Continent under various names.
The game requires room. A golf-course of nine holes should be at least a mile and a half long, and a hundred and twenty feet wide. It is usual to so lay out the course that the player ends where he began.
All sorts of obstructions are left, or made artificially,--running water, railway embankments, bushes, ditches, etc.
The game is played with a gutta-percha ball, about an inch and a quarter in diameter, and a variety of clubs, with wooden or iron heads, whose individual use depends on the position in which the ball lies. It is usual for each player to be followed by a boy, who carries his clubs and watches his ball, marking it down as it falls. Games are either singles,--that is, when two persons play against one another, each having a ball,--or fours, when there are two on each side, partners playing alternately on one ball.
The start is made near the club house at a place called the tee. Down the course, anywhere from two hundred and fifty to five hundred yards distant, is a level s.p.a.ce, fifty feet square, called a putting-green, and in its centre is a hole about four and a half inches in diameter and of the same depth. This is the first hole, and the contestant who puts his ball into it in the fewest number of strokes wins the hole.
As the score is kept by strokes, the ball that is behind is played first. In this way the players are always together.
For his first shot from the tee, the player uses a club called the driver. It has a wooden head and a long, springy, hickory handle. With this an expert will drive a ball for two hundred yards. It is needless to say that the beginner is not so successful. After the first shot a cleek is used; or if the ball is in a bad hole, a mas.h.i.+e; if it is necessary to loft it, an iron, and so on,--the particular club depending, as we have said, on the position in which the ball lies.
The first hole won, the contestants start from a teeing-ground close by it, and fight for the second hole, and so on around the course,--the one who has won the most holes being the winner.
"A fine day, a good match, and a clear green" is the paradise of the golfer, but it still can be played all the year and even, by the use of a red ball, when snow is on the ground. In Scotland and athletic England it is a game for players of all ages, though in nearly all clubs children are not allowed. It can be played by both s.e.xes.
A beginner's inclination is to grasp a golf club as he would a cricket bat, more firmly with the right hand than with the left, or at times equally firm with both hands. Now in golf, in making a full drive, the club when brought back must be held firmly with the left hand and more loosely with the right, because when the club is raised above the shoulder, and brought round the back of the neck, the grasp of one hand or the other must relax, and the hand to give way must be the right hand and not the left. The force of the club must be brought squarely against the ball.
The Art of Entertaining Part 28
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The Art of Entertaining Part 28 summary
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