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MY COUSINS IN THE COUNTRY.
With a Plate.
To Bachelor's Hall we good fellows invite,
Hark away! hark away!
While our spirits are gay,
The repeated invitations of my Country Cousins had at length determined me to pay them a visit. Accordingly, having equipped myself in due order for the excursion, I took my seat in a western stage, and, after a journey of some forty miles, found myself within a short walk of Harmony Hall, and its adjacent domains, being the joint property of my aforesaid respected kinsfolk. The pursuits of a military life, had estranged me from my connexions for many years, and the incessant variety of scenes and faces I had witnessed during the long and glorious campaign which closed with the deliverance of Europe, had tended, in a great measure, to diminish my youthful friendship; and, as I never knew the pleasure of possessing a father's love, or of enjoying a mother's care, having been left an orphan before I was conscious of such blessings, I looked back on England, after the first year of my campaigning, with no particular feeling of affection, beyond that which I shall always entertain for the country of my birth. But,
“Grim visaged war having smoothed his wrinkled front,”
and the convulsions which agitated Europe, prior to the ever memorable battle of Waterloo, having subsided at the voice of peace, I repaired, with the remnant of my gallant regiment, to old England, for whose weal we had fought and conquered. A few months after my arrival, I received an invitation to rusticate with my Cousins Joseph and Jonathan, after, as they expressed it,“ nine years of forced marches and hard fighting." Conceiving, however, for I am naturally proud and independent in my notions, that my
Cousins' invitation was more the result of courtesy than friendship, and feeling that a Captain with the prospect of H. P. and the certain loss of an arm, was a being, whose weight in the scale of existence was considerably diminished, I returned a polite, but cool refusal to comply with
the wishes of relatives of whom I know but little. The next post, however, : brought me another letter, which, acting under the same mistaken notion,
I neglected to answer; nor was it till my warm-hearted Cousins had renewed their invitation a third time, that I consented, at last, to share their hospitality, and pitch my tent, for a short period, at their head quarters.
Now then, thought I, as I strolled up the avenue which led to Harmony Hall, to put your hospitality to the trial, my Country Cousins. At this
moment an opening in the trees gave me a full view of the Hall, and in a few seconds my Cousins in full cry, came running out to meet
Never did a man receive a more hearty welcome, for not only both my Cousins grasped my remaining hand at the same moment, till I had serious fears that my arm would be shaken from its sockets, but Hounds, Harriers, Pointers, and Poodles, emulated each other in their rude demonstrations of joy and welcome, jumping, frisking, and barking about me. “Welcome, thrice welcome, most noble Captain,” cried the friendly, but boisterous brothers almost in the same breath. “Why, man, you are as shy as a plover in a fallow,” exclaimed Joseph, “and as hard to be bagged as a widgeon on a windy day,” added Jonathan, as he slapped me on the back. “You see the very brutes unite in the general welcome, and yet you seemed to have doubted your reception amongst us. But now that we have caught you, my boy, may my mare slip her shoulder at the next hunt, if you leave Harmony Hall till you see life with your Country Cousins." “Aye, and by the beard of your grand-father,” rejoined Joseph, “as the melancholy Hamlet says,
"We'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.',
By the bye, I wonder what the d 1 put such a mettlesome phrase into the mouth of the moody Prince; but that's neither here nor there. Look about you, my boy, here's a country for a view halloa !-six thorough bred hunters at your service, and the best pack of hounds within fifty miles." "And then,” added Jonathan, “if you should feel inclined for a day's shooting, we have all sorts of game on the grounds; and as for dogs and guns”—“My excellent friends,” exclaimed I, “you really overpower me with your kindness; but, you do not perceive, perhaps, that I am totally incapacitated from taking a share in your Country sports; an unlucky shot, you see”—“Aye, aye, my noble Captain, (said Joseph), we perceive your mishap, but a little practice, I have no doubt, will enable you to hunt and shoot with the best of us, why there's the old veteran Major Rattle, who is without an arm like yourself, and yet I warrant him, there are few keener sportsmen to be met with in the Country; I'll bet the long odds that, maimed as you are, you'll leave some of us behind you in our next turn out with the fox hounds.” “Or break my neck in the experiment, added I. By this time we reached the Hall, whose interior exhibited every symptom of the propensity of its owners to the pleasures of the field. The walls of the great dining parlour were adorned with all sorts of sporting implements, intermixed with the various sports of the chace, and pictures appertaining thereto.
Now, my readers must know that although my military life may be supposed to have given me a relish for the sports of the field, I had imbibed from my youth upwards, a rooted objection to such amusements; and certainly had I known that my Country Cousins were, as I found them to be, professed sportsmen, I should have declined their invitation altogether, notwithstanding the warmth with which it was repeated. I love rational pleasures as well as any man; but, I own, I can feel no delight in running down a poor defenceless timid animal to have it torn to pieces by savage dogs, nor can I relish the thought of stealing into a preserve with the murderous intention of shooting its harmless inhabitants. "I am well aware how unfashionable it is to enter a protest against the pursuits of the sportsman, followed, as they are, by persons of the highest rank, and the gravest station, in England; and, I also know how very unavailing it would be to endeavour by the laws of reason and humanity, to oppose practices which have struck such deep root. Yet, as a British soldier, I must be allowed to say, without the slightest pretensions, however, to refined nerves or an over-heated sensibility, that my principles are in total opposition to the habits of a sportsman’s life. As to pugilism, a science which has also its patrons and supporters amongst the higher orders that breathe the refined air of St. James's, it is, in my opinion, a practice at once so low, and so brutal, that I only wonder it has not been long since put down by the laws of the country: There are few things which excite more surprise in a Foreigner, than this most demoralizing habit, which, I am sorry to say, appears rather to gain than to lose ground in England. The exhibition of prize fights, and the pomp and circumstance with which they are announced and detailed in the London Journals, are enigmas to a Foreigner not easy of solution. And I have, when on the Continent, more than once heard the boasted refinement and civilization of England, and the superior excellence of her public press, very fairly questioned, solely from the pugilistic spirit which degrades the character of the country. With such feelings it may naturally be judged, that I anticipated but little pleasure from my visit to my Country Cousins, and I secretly resolved to make some excuse and to give them the slip at the very first opportunity.
In order to do honour to my arrival amongst them, my Cousins had previously invited a party of choice spirits, “ to sing a stave and crack a bottle,” and I accordingly found myself seated at dinner with a party of thorough bred fox hunters and other sporting characters, whose language was as new to me as the subjects which they broached. The glories of the chace was the theme on which a certain ruby-faced parson,
“A round, fat, oily man of God,"
my Cousin Jonathan, dilated with much earnestness and pleasure, while Joseph took the lead in discussing the relative merits of coursing and shooting; and Mr. P. and Mr. D. who were both addicted to fishing, and were rivals in the art, engaged in a learned discourse on black hackles, and blue flies; while a sporting Earl and his protege, one of the gentlemen of the fancy, (who was introduced under favour of his patron's influence and title,) sustained a close and familiar conversation, in a strain of slang expressions, to which, I thank Heaven, I am as yet a stranger. It appeared
that they were both deeply interested in the result of a coming fight
, in which the pugilist was one of the principals, and the Noble Lord his backer to a pretty large amount. As the wine flowed in, the spirits of the party, as a natural consequence, flew out. But I shall not attempt to describe the boisterous scene that ensued; at last, after having made the welkin ring, and scared the crows from their nests in the adjoining Rookery, with loud and vociferous merriment, intermixed with the various cries which are vented in the “ glorious chace;” such of the party as survived the rout withdrew to their homes, at an early hour in the morning: the parson, however, remaining according to his usual habit, to preach a funeral sermon over the defunct members that were scatteted on the floor.
A week thus spent with my Country Cousins, strengthened my disrelish