THE DISSEMBLERS

The Third Forest of Ys Story

February 15 1924

THE DISSEMBLERS

The Third Forest of Ys Story

February 15 1924

THE DISSEMBLERS

The Third Forest of Ys Story

HORACE ANNESLEY VACHELL

IN THE Forest of Ys, hunting —whether of red deer, fallow deer fox or hare—is the touchstone, the Open Sesame to all hearts gentle or simple. Perhaps, indeed, the simpler the heart the more undivided is its allegiance to the sport of kings. Every child knows that a king met his death in the deep woods that lie beneath Stoneycross, and visitors from overseas, who have never followed hounds, have been heard to remark that such an end to life, in such resplendent surroundings, is indeed a royal exit from a too troubled world.

According to the foresters, to hunt is to live. And if you can’t afford horses or ponies you can take the field “on wheels” or afoot. If, by the ill luck of things, you happen to be an incurable cripple, you can “walk” a puppy.

Of all the families long rooted in the Forest of Ys, the Pundles, possibly, occupy pride of place as ardent followers of the chase. Old General Pundle hunted six days a week. And on Sundays he was always to be found at the kennels, inhaling gratefully the odours of that paradise. In his will, he left instructions that he was to be buried in a corner of the cemetery, near the track which leads from the kennels to Puddenhurst, in the pious hope that “I may hear the hounds go by.” The gallant general belonged to the Whyte-Melville type. When—as he would have expressed it—he was “broken up” it was admitted by the foresters that none would look upon his like again, although his eldest son and successor, Major Pundle, was accepted as a chip of the old Block.

This son sired two boys and four girls. He spoke of the latter as “the whelps.” We are concerned with Diana, the youngest and, also, the prettiest. The irony of fate imposed upon her the name of the huntress. Far back in the Georgian age, a Pundle of Pundle’s Green had sought and found a bride east of Temple Bar, Diana only daughter of a “cit.” The lady brought a “plum” to Pundle Green, a dowry of just one hundred thousand pounds. Unhappily her father was not a horseman. General Pundle would shake his head when the strain was mentioned, hoping perhaps that it had become attenuated in the “cit’s” descendants.

OUR Diana was duly “entered” to the chase at the age of five. Her blooming cheeks were delicately encarrnined with the blood of buck and fox by the

masters of the respective packs in the presence of hunt servants and the field. A sister, who was present, noticed that the child flinched on each occasion. What conclusions she drew (if any) were kept to herself. It was almost unthinkable that a Pundle should shrink from the sacrosanct rites. It ought to be recorded—a fact hidden from the Olympians—that this same sister suspected “something”. She had seen Diana take a toss from her rocking-horse. Let the truth, however unpalatable, be told! Diana had fallen off backwards when the wild beast reared. And she had wept—! Psycho-analysts, not to be found in the Forest of Ys, might affirm that this was the beginning of an inevitable end. At any rate, Diana’s sire remained in happy ignorance of the catastrophe.

A lamentable situation was saved for Diana during the Great War. The stables at Pundle Green were almost empty. Diana appeared at the coverside in a governess cart, or on her bicycle. Also she ran with the beagles, and, knowing every inch of the forest, established something of a reputation with skirters and strangers who had lost hounds. Sympathetic friends and relatives would say sadly: “It’s too bad that little Di Pundle hasn’t a gee. How she would shove along, to be sure, on the right mount!” And her father would tap her cheek and growl out genially: “You shall have your innings, Di, when we’ve done in the last Boche.”

DIANA may have hoped that her innings would not come till then. She knew that she was dissembling with the family; she knew that Pundle wigs would lie thick on Pundle Green if she dared to stand up and confess that she preferred lawn tennis to hunting. She envisaged such a confession as a remote and cataclysmic possibility. In her less robust moments she hoped that the loose boxes would remain empty. When her sire grumbled at high prices and a sadly diminished income, her soul sang within her. Nevertheless, as we have just said, she went on dissembling. Once she came within an ace of betraying herself to a brother, who invited her to inspect a restive steed. Diana approached warily, dis-

trustful of an eye that displayed too much white.

“He’s quiet as a lamb,” said Di’s brother with assurance.

“Is he?” murmured Diana. “It’s an odd thing, Harry, but quiet horses somehow are not quiet when I go up to them.”

And then Harry’s astounded stare had warned her that she was skating on thinnest ice.

For a year after the War, Major Pundle’s stables held but two hunters. Then, to Diana’s dismay, a godmother died and left her five thousand pounds. Major Pundle expressed his lively sense of gratitude and the conviction —shared by every member of the family—that the finger of Providence could be discerned.

“This means two days a week huntin’ for my little girl.”

“I s-s-suppose so, Daddy.”

“Suppose be blowed. I shall find you a young horse and ‘nag’ him myself. You ought to make a bit over him in the spring when our visitors come down. But that means, of course, careful riding, and coming home early—eh?” Diana brightened.

“No bangin’ over ruts and rabbit holes.”

THE Major bought a young horse within six weeks of the godmother’s decease. Who will throw even a pebble at Diana because she said to her father:

“I want you to ride Sammy till you think he is just right for me. If I lamed him I should never forgive myself.”

The Major nodded. Later in the day a sister with no expectations from a godmother, said tartly:

“Likely as not Father will lame Sammy. He tells us to be jolly careful, but he always was and will be a thruster.” “I don’t care,” said Diana, seizing the first opportunity of telling the refreshing truth. “If Daddy does lame my horse, I shan’t put it across him.”

And this was freely quoted in the family and in the Forest as unassailable proof of the right sporting spirit.

To make things better (or worse) Major Pundle, aftei his first ride on Sammy, admitted frankly that the new horse was, for the moment, a bit tob much for any young lady.

“When I’ve done with him, Di, he’ll carry you at the ;op of the hunt. It will do my old eyes good to see you ¡here. Let me have him for the cubbin’.”

Diana had an inspiration.

“Daddy, dear, why shouldn’t I give Sammy to you. i[—I’d like to give him to you.”

The Major was not, as a rule, exuberant in his manifestations of paternal affection, but, listening to this generis offer, he was confounded. He stared at Diana, seized 1er in his arms, lifted her off her small feet, and kissed her îeartily:

“You’re a little topper. Take Sammy from you—? Not f he was the only horse in the world! Now—I’m going to ell you something which you needn’t mention to your asters. They’re good girls, but they haven’t your looks, lod knows I don’t want to lose any of you, but one must ook ahead. On Sammy, going as you will go, you might ■apture anybody. We all have our little ambitions. I ■ould turn my toes up with some sort of satisfaction if I ■ould give you to a master of hounds. And I’d like to see -ou in the first flight across a stiffly enclosed country. If iammy shapes into the performer I take him to be, lammy, I’ll whisk the pair of you down to the Blackmoor rale. Now that’s a solemn promise.”

“Daddy, you know you can’t afford that.”

The Major eyed his youngest with pride.

“You shall show ’em the way. My heart is set on it.” “But—but could I ride over those big fences?”

“With a bit of schooling—yes. I’m thinking of putting ip half a dozen ‘leps’ in the park. But I’m short of cash ind labour. Not a word to your dear mother.”

“No.” Diana hesitated. Then, desperately, she ¡ripped his arm.

“Darling Daddy, you are too sweet for anything. And vhat you say sounds splendid, simply—a—priceless, but vouldn’t it make the others a wee bit jealous!”

The Major was not insensible to this.

“You’re one of the best, Di. Well, well, there’s no lurry. But the War has done you out of your natural ights. And it’s up to me to make it up to you. See?” “Yes,” said Diana pensively.

II.

BOUT this time, when the tennis season was waning, Guy Sandilands spent a few days with the Slufters I Hernshaw Parva. Tom Slufter had served with Guy

in France. After the War Guy went back to the Stock Exchange, where he was doing well as junior partner in a well known firm of jobbers. Within twenty four hours after arriving at Hernshaw Parva he met Diana Pundle, and lost immediately his head, his heart, and his powers of speech. Tom Slufter realized that the affair was serious.

“You’re badly hit, old lad,” he observed. “I’ve been over the top myself, and I know what it is. You can count on me to see you through.”

“Tell me this,” said Guy. “Is there anybody else?” Tom reassured him, adding sagaciously: “You’ve nicked in just right. Di has inherited five thousand thick ’uns, but it’s hardly known yet. It isn’t much, of course, but it’ll pay for her corn. Fellows will be buzzin’ about her this side of Christmas. Do you ride?”

“I have ridden.”

“To hounds?”

“No.NotyeU Why?”

Tom became impressive.

“All the Pundles are mad keen about hunting. We Slufters like a hunt too, but it’s not a what-do-you-callit?”

“An idiosyncrasy?” suggested Guy.

“That’s the word. Now—my straight tip is this: if you mean business, you must ride into Di’s heart.”

“But, strictly between ourselves, Tom, I’m not a horseman.”

“You must talk horse and hounds with Di Pundle.” Guy looked unhappy.

“I—I don’t think I could.”

Tom considered this. After a pause he hazarded an admirable suggestion.

“You can make her talk. If she hits the right scent, she’ll speak to it. You can ask her for information about Forest hunting. You might hint that you’re coming out with us later.”

“Ami?”

“Of course. Honestly, you haven’t a dog’s chance with Di unless you do. I’ll find you a really safe conveyance, a hireling.”

“But when she saw me on the beast—or off it.”

“Very little lepping in our parts, old lad. You leave this to me. Major Pundle is schooling a young horse for Di, a customer, too, but a beauty. Foxhounds meet first Tues-

day in November at Puddenhurst. Di will be riding her new gee. You can put in a week with us.”

“Not at all. Meanwhile—go it! Be keen as mustard. She’ll play up, the little darling. By jove! if you weren’t my pal, I’d take her on myself. Best of luck!”

The young men shook hands fervently.

"^UEXT day, Guy and Diana met again on the Pundle Green lawn. Diana was not in tennis kit. Guy guessed that two excellent courts would hardly suffice for the number of players. And he had anticipated with pleasure a set with Diana, who played well. The Major greeted him cordially, saying, in a lower tone:

“My girls tell me you are hot stuff. Bide a wee, and I’ll put you into a good men’s set.”

At this moment, Guy began to dissemble in his turn; and perhaps it ought to be stated emphatically that neither he nor Diana were “hot stuff” at that game—as will be set forth presently. Behind the Major, shyly smiling, stood Diana. Guy raised his voice:

“It’s a confounded nuisance, Major, but you must count me out.”

Guy, sensible that Diana was listening, essayed his first flight into what we may call the hunting empyream.

“I’m not quite sound this afternoon,” he said pleasantly. “Went a bit short on the way to the meet.” The Major nodded solemnly. Guy went on, much pleased with his first effort: “Back tendon out of whack. Nothing serious. I was shot in the leg after Mons.”

The Major turned to his daughter.

“Here’s a V. A. D.,” he said, with his jolly grin. “Now, Di, you can shew Mr. Sandilands Sammy. I hand over this wounded warrior to you.”

“Does your leg hurt you?” she asked.

“Not as much as it did,” said Guy.

Guy assented. More, he strategically manoeuvred Diana in the direction of two chairs at the farthest’end of the lawn. They sat down in the shade of a copper beech and looked at each other.

Throughout October he had taken riding lessons in and out of a London school of equitation. It would be too much to affirm that confidence in his horsemanship had come to him. Far from it. But he was agreeably sensible that it might come—after. Upon a safe conveyance, exercising reasonable discretion, he was not likely to make an idiot of himself. That conviction sustained him. At the same time, beneath his belt, as he tightened it over his unimpeachable breeches, was what children call a “squirmishy” feeling, a sense of insecurity in a well polished saddle, a premonition that his knees would slip back and his shoulders forward at the wrong moment. The riding master in the London school had made an offensive remark after the third lesson.

“Your mother’s maid may think you can ride a bit, but I’m damned if that old horse does.”

This rankled horribly. Guy realized, in his marrow, that the old horses he bestrode did know. Out of mere kindness of heart they dealt leniently with a tyro. The hireling might be less kind.

However, on this point, the good faithful Tom was once more reassuring:

“I’ve picked you out a good ’un, old lad. Radford of Brackenford is a pal of mine. I told him what was wanted, and he’s sending to the meet a quad he rides himself, a wise veteran, what they call in the catalogues ‘suitable for a nervous elderly gentleman.’ You can ride him sitting face to the tail if you want to.”

“I shan’t try that to-day,” said Guy.

T JNDER the circumstances, he ate a tolerable breakfast, and cut his own sandwiches at the sideboard. Tom filled a hunting flask with rum for him.

“There’s nothing like old Jamaica rum,” he asserted. The party motored to the meet, one of the prettiest spots in the Forest of Ys. Hounds, and hunt servants in new liveries, stood under the crest of The Bench, a small hill crowned by an ancient yew. North, east and south stretched the woodlands displaying autumnal splendours of tint. To the west lay the happy village with its graceful spire soaring out of the trees.

An immense crowd had assembled.

The day began inauspiciously for Guy. Radford’s quad—so Radford himself explained—was not quite fit. Accordingly, he had substituted another horse quite as confidential, so he assured Guy.

“Is he forest-wise, Mr. Radford?”

“Lord love you, yes, sir. Done his two days a week for the past three seasons, a glutton for work, he is. Don’t you spare him! He may be a bit playful at first, but let him have his head—let him have his head.”

Guy climbed creditably enough into the pigskin, and patted a thick, hard neck in front of him. Much to his relief, the playful one stood still.

Guy surveyed the animated scene.

He could see Diana in the distance mounted upon Sammy. The Major looked the pink of perfection. Cautiously Guy approached the Pundles, sitting well back, and assuming a nonchalant deportment which became him vastly well. Tom Slufter nodded approvingly and rode towards the hounds.

The Major greeted our hero cordially, and was full of chat about Sammy and Diana. Guy decided that she was almost unattainable on Sammy. He had never seen a handsomer pair.

“This is her first hunt on him,” said the Major. “I say, and I know, that the horse would fetch three hundred guineas at Leicester. He’s too good for this country. One can’t let him out down here. A gentleman all over.”

“With a lady on his back,” thought Guy.

“I see you’ve got one of old Rad’s,” continued the Major, more pleasantly than ever. “I know that horse well, a good ’un, but like most hirelings he takes hold of his bit. For the Lord’s sake don’t override hounds. The present price of hounds is, in my opinion, the most serious problem England has to face. I was at Rugby last May. Couples, not the best either, were snapped up at three hundred guineas. We’re going to draw Matley Bog. Sure find! Mind you stick to the regular crossings.” “Thanks,” said Guy politely. “I will.”

The Major added one more bit of advice.

“You look a thruster. But don’t ram that old horse at timber. We do come across a post-and-rails sometimes, but these Forest hirelings aren’t to be trusted except over ditches.”

"Thanks again,” said Guy. “No timber for me, to-day.” “You might do worse than follow Di. She knows the Forest, and I’ve rubbed it well into her that she’s to be extra careful.”

“W’ill you pilot me?” asked Guy of Diana.

CAMMY was not behaving at the moment too well. ^ Cubbing had made him keen. Obviously, he disdained coffee-housing, which means chattering, smoking, and nibbling of sandwiches. Sammy was wondering why hounds didn’t move off. He tossed his well-bred head, and champed a foaming bit.

“Drop your hands, Di!” growled the Major.

“Will you pilot me?” asked Guy for the second time.

“I—I’ll try,” said Diana.

“Give her plenty of room,” counselled the Major. “A young horse may come down in a soft place.”

Hounds trotted off the turf on to the high road. To Guy’s immense satisfaction his horse moved quietly beside the more restive Sammy. Nevertheless, before Matley Bog was reached, it dawned upon our cavalier that he couldn’t stop his mount, although he was only trotting. It was not easy to stop him when he walked. If Guy pulled at him, he put his head down and bored on obstinately. However, when Sammy walked, Guy’s horse consented to walk also. When Sammy stood still he did likewise. Guy decided ultimately that a veteran accepted the situation. He understood that he was to follow Sammy.

“Eleu in there, eleu in, my bu-o-oys!”

Hounds, scattered nicely across the bog. Diana observed with authority:

“It’s a rare scenting day.”

Guy was unable to question this for fear of betraying ignorance. Diana went on:

“One can generally tell even when hounds are on the road. If they dog it along as if they were going to Sunday School the scent is sure to be bad. But they’re taking notice of everything this morning. Shall we go to the right or the left of the bog?”

“I leave that to you.”

Diana hesitated. The Master and most of the field were going right-handed. A whip had galloped on.

“Let’s try the left,” she said.

She cantered on. Guy followed. They reached a convenient corner and stood still, watching hounds. Di said softly:

“If a fox breaks away here we shall have a wonderful start. Hark!”

Guy heard a whimper.

“That’s General—-a fifth season hound. We walked him.”

“She is keen,” decided Guy. “What will the darling think if I don’t fqllow her.”

AT THE same moment the darling was reflecting ■ sadly: “If I don’t keep at the top of this hunt, he’ll despise me.” Aloud she said casually: “Hounds are

working up to a fox.”

“The biggest wottiver was seen.”

“You read Jorrocks, Mr. Sandilands?”

“Read Jorrocks—? I hang his calendar on my shaving glass.”

“So does Daddy.”

Another whimper—and another! Then—the crashing cry!

“There he goes,” said Diana.

Guy had a glimpse of the varmint as he slid out of the bog and across the ride in front of them into Matley Wood.

Guy looked at Diana. He thought her face pale but determined. Across the bog he could see the Master and the field galloping hard for the upper crossing.

“We are ten minutes ahead of them,” said Diana. “And hounds are racing.”

As the last hound crossed the ride, Diana gave Sammy his head. He seemed to Guy to gallop like a Derby winner. Diana steered him up one ride and down another. Guy followed. He meant to follow, but he was not given much choice about it. The young man thanked his stars that his pilot stuck to the rides. Even then tree trunks flashed by him, and deep ruts yawned under him. He wondered vaguely what sort of country lay beyond the wood.

They debouched upon the heathery slopes which lie to the north west. Hounds were running to the right. Nobody was with them. Sammy took the slope of the hill with the long sweeping stride of a thoroughbred. Guy’s horse was doing his best, but Guy didn’t know it, because he was measuring the ever-increasing distance between himself and his lady love. He dared to spur his steed. “Get on with it,” he shouted.

THE ardour of the chase possessed him, but he was pursuing Diana, not the fox. His horse, not he, had an eye for the ruts. And, suddenly, the beast turned at right angles. Guy nearly left him. Safe once more in the saddle, he grasped the fact. Hounds had swung lefthanded. And he—he, the novice—was nearer to them than Diana. Her voice came to him on the breeze, but inarticulate. The pace at which he was travelling seemed to affect eyes and ears.

Bif-f-f!

He was down, pitching on his head and rolling over. Convulsively he kept a grip on the reins. He stood up. Apparently he had galloped into a soft place. Then he heard Di’s voice beside him:

“Are you hurt?”

“Hurt? No. This is glorious, isn’t it? This is fun.”

He scrambled on to his horse. They sped on side by side. Diana said reproachfully:

“You frightened me to death. You must look where you are going. I shouted.”

February 15, 1924

“Bless you! You did. I intended to follow you, but this obstinate beast has a cast-iron jaw.”

“We shall be in Ashurst Wood in a jiffey.”

“Right! You go on.”

OBEDIENTLY, Diana took the lead. For the moment, pace had outdistanced fear. And she knew that she and Guy were alone with hounds. She realized also that Sammy meant to keep with hounds. Being a gentleman, he was willing to stop at a bad place but nowhere else. He strode on and on with the hireling thundering behind him. Diana glanced round.

“ ’Ware holes!”

Guy saw holes; so did his horse. And he saw farther on a silvery streak which might mean water. Sammy popped over it. The hireling followed. Guy was shot into the air and landed upon the thick neck. By a miracle, he found himself again in the saddle. Ashurst Wood was in front of him. He can’t tell how he got through that wood. A new Lock hat was irreparably ruined. He crashed through half a dozen holly bushes. He grazed the trunks of gnarled oaks. But he followed Sammy.

Hounds checked for a minute close to the PuddenhurstWesthampton road. But they cast themselves beautifully, picking up a line which skirted the Workhouse, and thence, across the railroad, into Fletchwood and through it. To Guy’s horror he beheld grass fields and fences.

“I’m done,” he muttered.

The same thought was searing the mind of Diana. It was possible, of course, to ride the roads. The fences were not big, but they were blind, and farmers’ wire' gaps. Sammy solved the problem. Diana found herself well into the first field with hounds disappearing over the far fence.

Guy hesitated. His blood was up, boiling through his veins. But—lepping! He had ridden a staid hunter over a small hurdle and a brush fence in the riding-school, and he remembered with shame the derisive smile on the face of the riding-master. Deliberately he pulled hard on the curb. He meant to take the road. The hireling grunted disapproval and followed Sammy....

GUY was never able to give an articulate account of what followed. He may have jumped six fences or a dozen. They may have been big or small. He may have held on to the pommel. Somehow—ask the birds who alone witnessed an amazing performance—he surmounted every obstacle, taking each fence in turn where the gallant Sammy took it, and ending up, dazed and bewildered, in the very middle of the yelping pack.

“Gone to ground,” said Diana.

She slipped from her panting horse and so did Guy. Perhaps he remembered what Soapy Sponge did to the fair Lucy Glitters upon another memorable occasion. Guy was certainly far too excited to crane at the last fen.ce of all. And Diana was quite as excited as he.

“You darling!” he exclaimed.

“Mr. Sandilands—!”

Before she could protest he had kissed her.

“I adore you.”

“Guy—!”

He went on kissing her, and presently she was kissing him.

After a blissful ten minutes the field rode up. The Major was amongst the first.

“Can we dig him out?” he asked.

“Don’t,” said Guy. Happily inspired, he added: “Such a straight-going fox ought to be spared to give you all another run.”

“You stuck to ’em, Di?”

“Sammy did,” replied Diana.

Guy told the artless truth.

“My hireling followed Sammy.”

The Major beamed approval. Afterwards he affirmed that he guessed what had happened, but this may be doubted. Obviously, he was delighted with Sammy, his daughter and Guy. He said promptly:

“You two have had a good hunt. We must crack a bottle of fizz over this to-night. Will you dine with us, Sandilands?”

“With pleasure,” said Guy.

He rode home with Diana. Sammy—so the Major

decided—had done his bit and more than his bit. The hireling, moreover, looked as if he, too, had had enough of a good thing.

On their way homeward, the happy pair didn’t talk about hunting.

IV.

REACTION set in when Guy left Diana at Pundle Green. Black Care sat behind him all the way to Hernshaw Parva. He had won the sweetest girl in the Kingdom under false pretences. The last bubble of excitement oozed from him as he lay full length in a hot bath. He was perfectly honest with himself. He knew that never, never would he make a horseman. He had ridden his first and last hunt!

At ease in an armchair, he envisaged a possible future. He hoped to be able to afford two hunters for Di. Would she accept that? Later, when he drew a larger share of the firm’s profits, she might have half a dozen. And, for her dear sake, he would settle in a hunting country, say the Whaddon Chase, not too far from London. Yes—he might square Diana and the Major with giltedged promises.

Continued on page 54

Continued from page 18

Diana, in her bedroom, was as fully ¡ sensible of the issues involved. Sammy had terrified her. And he had established a sort of record for himself and her. He had set a standard. Henceforward, she I would be expected to “go” on Sammy as j she had gone this eventful morning. Every fibre in a sensitive body quivered at the ! prospect.

However, being a Pundle, she consoled ' herself with one dyed-in-the-wool reflection. Hunting men of the keenest type, like dear Guy or her father, did accept I with a certain equanimity wives who went ! to the meet on wheels. That meant more

gees for the man. But, being as honest as Guy, she must tell the truth that very night and face the consequences.

The dinner was no ha’penny affair. Tilt Major descended into his cellar and gazed mournfully at depleted binns. He ascended bearing with him a magum ol Bollinger, ’04, and a bottle of ’63 port. He divined that, after dinner, young Sandilands would wish to speak to him.

During dinner, Diana described run with a corroborative detail whicr quite upset Guy, confirming his conviction that nobody but a Pundle coulc have done such justice to such a subject The toss taken by Guy excited comment from the Major:

“What I say is this: a keen follower get: to know the bogs by riding into em He doesn’t ride into the same bog twice.

“No,” said Guy.

WHEN Diana finished the entrancing narrative, the Major made a further comment:

“It beats me, Di, that you should have had the gumption to go to the right side of Matley when all of us went wrong.” Diana crumbled her bread and said nothing.

“It was more than luck,” affirmed the Major solemnly. “I believe that some people have an instinct for gettin’ a good start. My father had it. You inherit this from him, Di.”

Diana glanced up at a portrait of a lady wearing pearls, the daughter of the old “cit” who brought a “plum” to Pundle Green.

“I wonder what I inherited from the first Diana,” she murmured.

When the decanter of ’63 was brought in, the Major proposed the toast of the evening:

“Fox-hunting!”

It was drunk with acclamation. After dinner, Guy found himself alone with Diana. And he was well aware that the Pundle family had accepted him as one of themselves. Still, before he spoke to the Major, it was due to Diana to speak candidly to her.

To his surprise she spoke first.

“I have something to tell you, Guy.” “There has been another,” he thought. She continued recklessly:

“Father wondered why I took you that side of Matley Bog.”

“As he says—an inherited instinct.” “Yes—an inherited instinct from the alderman’s daughter.”

“I beg your pardon, dearest.”

“I took you there, Guy, because I’m a miserable coward. I thought, I—I hoped that the fox would baker the other side. Then we should have been pounded.”

He stared at her.

“You—you wanted to be pounded?” “I was, I am, horribly afraid of Sammy. I don’t believe I can ever ride him again. I would rather not ride at all. I—I don’t think hunting the only thing in the world. I’m—I’m just a bit fed up with it. When Daddy proposed the toast to-night, I whispered under my breath: ‘Tennis.’ ” “God bless you! I whispered under my breath: ‘Golf.’ ”

“What can you mean?”

“I mean what you mean. I’ve been in a blue funk all day. I can’t ride for nuts. If you had looked back you would have seen me doing a sort of cup-and-ball stunt with my gee. I was all over the poor beast from his ears to his tail. At each fence I shut my eyes. I was following you, not the hounds.”

They embraced tenderly. After the interlude, Guy said nervously:

“Shall I tell your father to-night?” “No; we will tell him together—tomorrow. We can square Daddy.” “How?”

“I shall give him Sammy.”