Mr. Fortescue - An Andean Romance

Mr. Fortescue - An Andean Romance

-

English
119 Pages
Read
Download
Downloading requires you to have access to the YouScribe library
Learn all about the services we offer

Informations

Published by
Published 08 December 2010
Reads 17
Language English
Report a problem
The Project Gutenberg eBook, Mr. Fortescue, by William Westall This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: Mr. Fortescue Author: William Westall Release Date: January 24, 2005 [eBook #14779] Language: english Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 ***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK MR. FORTESCUE*** E-text prepared by the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team MR. FORTESCUE AN ANDEAN ROMANCE BY WILLIAM WESTALL CONTENTS CHAPTER I. CHAPTER II. CHAPTER III. CHAPTER IV . CHAPTER V . CHAPTER VI. CHAPTER VII. CHAPTER VIII. CHAPTER IX. CHAPTER X. CHAPTER XI. CHAPTER XII. CHAPTER XIII. CHAPTER XIV . CHAPTER XV . CHAPTER XVI. CHAPTER XVII. CHAPTER XVIII. CHAPTER XIX. CHAPTER XX. CHAPTER XXI. CHAPTER XXII. CHAPTER XXIII. CHAPTER XXIV . CHAPTER XXV . CHAPTER XXVI. CHAPTER XXVII. CHAPTER XXVIII. CHAPTER XXIX. CHAPTER XXX. CHAPTER XXXI. CHAPTER XXXII. CHAPTER XXXIII. CHAPTER XXXIV . CHAPTER XXXV . CHAPTER XXXVI. CHAPTER I. M ATCHING GREEN. Return to Table of Contents A quaint old Essex village of single-storied cottages, some ivy mantled, with dormer windows, thatched roofs, and miniature gardens, strewed with picturesque irregularity round as fine a green as you will find in the county. Its normal condition is rustic peace and sleepy beatitude; and it pursues the even tenor of its way undisturbed by anything more exciting than a meeting of the vestry, the parish dinner, the advent of a new curate, or the exit of one of the fathers of the hamlet. But this morning the place is all agog, and so transformed that it hardly knows itself. The entire population, from the oldest gaffer to the last-born baby, is out-of-doors; the two inns are thronged with guests, and the road is lined with all sorts and conditions of carriages, from the four-in-hand of the wealthy swell to the donkey-cart of the local coster-monger. From every point of the compass are trooping horsemen, some resplendent in scarlet coats, their nether limbs clothed in immaculate white breeches and shining top-boots, others in pan hats and brown leggings; and all in high spirits and eager for the fray; for to-day, according to old custom, the Essex Hunt hold the first regular meet of the season on Matching’s matchless Green. The master is already to the fore, and now comes Tom Cuffe, the huntsman, followed by his hounds, whose sleek skins and bright coats show that they are “fit to go,” and whose eager looks bode ill to the long-tailed denizens of copse and covert. It still wants a few minutes to eleven, and the interval is occupied in the interchange of greetings between old companions of the chase, in desultory talk about horses and hounds; and while some of the older votaries of Diana fight their battles o’er again, and describe thrice-told historic runs, which grow longer with every repetition, others discuss the prospects of the coming season, and indulge in hopes of which, let us hope, neither Jack Frost, bad scent, nor accident by flood or field will mar the fruition. Nearly all are talking, for there is a feeling of camaraderie in the hunting-field which dispenses with the formality of introductions, its frequenters sometimes becoming familiar friends before they have learned each other’s names. Yet there are exceptions; and one cavalier in particular appears to hold himself aloof, neither speaking to his neighbors nor mixing in the throng. As he does not look like a “sulky swell,” rendered taciturn by an overweening sense of his own importance, he is probably either a new resident in the county or a “stranger from a distance”—which, none whom I ask seems to know. There is something about this man that especially attracts my attention; and not mine alone, for I perceive that he is being curiously regarded by several of my neighbors. His get-up is faultless, and he sits with the easy grace of a practiced horseman an animal of exceptional symmetry and strength. His well-knit figure is slim and almost youthful, and he holds himself as erect on his saddle as a dragoon on parade. But his closely cropped hair is turning gray, and his face that of a man far advanced in the fifties, if not past sixty. And a striking face it is—long and oval, with a straight nose and fine nostrils, a broad forehead, and a firm, resolute mouth. His complexion, though it bears traces of age, is clear, healthy, and deeply bronzed. Save for a heavy gray mustache, he is clean shaved; his dark, keenly observant eyes are overshadowed by black and all but straight brows, terminating in two little tufts, which give his countenance a strange and, as some might think, an almost sardonic expression. Altogether, it strikes me as being the face of a cynical yet not ill-natured or malicious Mephistopheles. Behind him are two grooms in livery, nearly as well mounted as himself, and, greatly to my surprise, he is presently joined by Jim Rawlings, who last season held the post of first whipper-in. What manner of man is this who brings out four horses on the same day, and what does he want with them all? Such horses, too! There is not one of them that has not the look of a two hundred-guinea hunter. I was about to put the question to Keyworth, the hunt secretary, who had just come within speaking distance, and was likely to know if anybody did, when the master gave the signal for a move, and huntsman and hounds, followed by the entire field, went off at a sharp trot. We had a rather long ride to covert, but a quick find, a fox being viewed away almost as soon as the hounds began to draw. It was a fast thing while it lasted, but, unfortunately, it did not last long; for, after a twenty minutes’ gallop, the hounds threw up their heads, and cast as Cuffe might, he was unable to recover the line. The country we had gone over was difficult and dangerous, full of blind fences and yawning ditches, deep enough and wide enough to swallow up any horse and his rider who might fail to clear them. Fortunately, however, I escaped disaster, and for the greater part of the run I was close to the gentleman with the Mephistophelian face and Tom Rawlings, who acted as his pilot. Tom rode well, of course—it was his business—but no better than his master, whose horse, besides being a big jumper, was as clever as a cat, flying the ditches