This post is dedicated to a well loved 19th century novel though, alas, the subject matter has been strongly influenced by American’isms.
Mrs Anabelle Hutchens is at home, a widowed mother of one she should by rights be attending to her son’s education, but he is a Lord and she a mere commoner. And so, having been lured abroad by the promise of an ‘allowance’, she now unhappily resides at Elderberry Cottage. Whilst her son (recently returned from Eton) takes up residence at Font-Le-Noy Castle with his Grand-Pa-Pa Lord Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy.
“You must, I suppose, accompany his Lordship on the hunt, though I would advise you to keep a discrete distance. His Lordship is not overly fond of Americans, even if they have had a hand in siring the next heir to the Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy Estate.”
Mrs Annabelle Hutchens is at home though she wishes she wasn’t, she has seen next to nothing of her son since they first arrived in England and the last thing on her mind is a fox hunt. “To hunt a fox across field and forest and dell it seems so unconscionably cruel!”.
Lord Clare chuckles at this,”Foxes?” he replies, “Fox hunting? A mundane practice! Oh no my dear we will not be culling foxes! Lord Elderberry eschews the traditional hunt, as do I. Nevertheless since it is his wish that you attend (and at a distance) it would be very bad form for you not to.” Attending a hunt but not of foxes? Examining Lord Clare’s fatherly, affable, moustachioed demeanour Mrs Annabelle Hutchens feels certain that whatever the nature of the hunt she is in safe hands.
And so it is that on a warm crisp Sunday morn she leaves her little cottage appropriately attired, mounts her horse and gallops gently across the meadow to the outer perimeter of the great house. It is here that she is met by none other than Lord Clare handsomely dressed in riding jacket and velveteen breeches, his glossy black boots gleaming most alluringly. Accompanying him are relatives of the Wessex bred Ruckle-Smoot-Frangeres, curious to behold the American widow duped into marrying a Hesketh-Elderberry.
“I present to you Mrs Annabelle Hutchens mother of little Cedric”
“Charming simply adorable! Little Cedric has a Mater? Well, well, the last one declared itself an orphan did it not Bertie?” the Marchioness is all avid curiosity but a warning glance from her husband forbids her from saying more.
“The last one? There is another Lord Font-Le-Noy?” Lord Clare smiles brightly at this query,”Oh quite a few. Lord Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy is a man steeped in halcyon tradition. And so it is not enough to be termed a Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy, one must be acknowledged a Hesketh-Elderberry-Font-Le-Noy, but I digress, onwards to the hunt!”. Galloping towards the edge of the Elderberry Woods at such a fast pace that Mrs Hutchens (dimpled cheeks a-flush) finds herself quite caught up in the thrill of the pursuit, they are soon close by the main hunting party led by Lord Hesketh-Elderberry. From this distance it is possible to see something pale and ghostly white darting about in the undergrowth, it is possible to hear it too.
“Ah!I’ll have at yer! Yer Gombeen! Make a hearth rug outta me will ye? I’ll slit your throat from ear to ear so I will! Walta! Walta! To my right! To me my lad! Bring the pike! Ah! You cursed Gombeen! I’ll tear your fatty heart out of you whilst it’s still beating! Walta! Walta! where’s the pike?!”
And at this violently ejaculated exclamation Annnabelle Hutchens is aghast with horror, for that is indeed no fox they are hunting. Alas, dear reader, it is a member of the tribe of Adam and a pitiful specimen at that. Another such specimen still more terrible for its stunning ferocity sits astride a horse looming over the tall ,thin, man stood defiantly in the midst of the undergrowth, “Lord Hesketh iz e being serious? E is clearly squatting your land, can I shoot the bugger?”. Flushed of countenance with a bull whip gripped firmly in his clenched fist, his Lordship is too busy whipping the hide off another young man attempting to wriggle out of his grasp to answer.
“Dear God!” shrieks Mrs Hutchens paling visibly, “What parlous state of affairs is this?”
“A population explosion of Fenians m’dear, it’s regrettable but this needs to be done, tally-ho!” and off Lord Clare gallops eager to participate in this clearing of Irish Gypsies from the woodlands of Elderberry. On the ground are two Irish women their grimy faces etched with misery attempting to make their escape, each with a child tied to her back.
Annabelle Hutchens fancies herself decidedly faint for all of the ten seconds it takes her to realise what is about to happen. And then something else kicks in, could it be that ferocious pioneering spirit that caused her forebears to toss crate after crate of East India Company tea into the stormy waters of Boston Harbour? Heaven forfend! With a “Yeehaaa!” and a quick flip of her wrist she unseats the crazed Boer warrior bearing down on the two women. And leaping quickly out of the saddle she scoops up his rifle aiming it at the crazed aristocratic horde seemingly intent upon slaughtering the two unfortunates.
“So far and no further or by heavens I’ll blast you all to smithereens!” she cries, now,in saner circumstances an uncomfortable silence would ensue but, Annabel’s untimely intervention has worked in the squatters’ favour. Armed to the teeth with pikes and blunderbusses they commence a harrying such as has never been seen outside of the more obscure annals of British history.”Shoot me would you? Ye godless warmongering Boer devil! Take that! An that!” cries an enraged Irish squatter discarding his blunderbuss and gripping a red faced huntsman by the throat. Not to be out done the huntsman twists himself sideways grabbing the squatter by his legs and tugging on them hard. “Aargh! Ye bugger!” cries another, this time a huntsman attempting to aim his rifle at a teenager who rips it out of his grasp hitting him over the head with it.
Unarmed combat has commenced and from where Annabel sits all are so mired in the dirt that t’is impossible to tell who is Irish and who British. Still one thing is certain, the young man seated alongside her in his right mind and, looking equally horrified is none other than her Cedric, who looking up at the mother he has hardly seen since he lit upon England’s shores has only one thing to say, “Maw can we go home?”