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As I gathered up the thin and unflexible reins I felt
that he was conferring a privilege on me by allowing
me to ride the horse—a privilege for which the sum
of thirty-five shillings seemed inadequate repayment.
My mount was a wiry, nondescript-coloured animal,
sober and unexcitable. It was evident from the first
that he knew much more about the game than I did.
He was what is known as a ""'safe conveyance'* or
"patent safety"; this more than atoned for his dry-
coated and ill-groomed exterior. By the time I had
been on his back an hour I felt more at home than
I had ever done when out with the Dumborough.
The meet was at "The Five Bells", a wayside inn
close to Basset Wood, which was the chief stronghold
of fox-preservation in that part of the Ringwell
country. There was never any doubt about finding
a fox at Basset. Almost a mile square, it was well-
rided and easy to get about in, though none too easy
to get a fox away from. It was also, as Stephen
remarked when we entered it, an easy place to get
left in unless one kept one's eyes and ears skinned.
And his. face kindled at the delightful notion of
getting well away with the hounds, leaving three
parts of the field coffee-housing at the wrong end of
the covert. It was a grey morning, with a nip in the
air which made him hopeful that "hounds would
fairly scream along" if they got out in the open and,
perhaps for the first time in my life, I felt a keen
pleasure in the idea of sitting down and cramming my
horse at every obstacle that might come in our way.
In the meantime I had got no more than a rough
idea of the seventy or eighty taciturn or chattering
riders who were now making their way slowly along
the main-ride while the huntsman could be heard
cheering his hounds a little way off among the oaks