‘Sunday morning stables’ being one of his favourite ceremonies, the Colonel now led us from one loose-box to another, commenting affectionately on each inmate, and stimulated by the fact that one of his audience was a stranger. Each of them, apparently, was a compendium of unique equine qualities, on which I gazed with unaffected admiration, while Stephen chimed in with “Never seen the old chestnut looking so fit, Colonel,” or “Looking an absolute picture,” while Dumbrell was deferentially at hand all the time to share the encomiums offered to his charges. The Colonel, of course, had a stock of repertory remarks about how each one of them, including how they had won a certain point-to-point or (more frequently) why they hadn’t.
The last one we looked at was a big, well-bred brown horse who stood very much ‘over at the knees.’ The Colonel had hunted him twelve seasons and he had an equivalently long rigmarole to recite about him, beginning with “I remember Sam Hames saying to me—(I bought him off old Hames of Leicester, you know)—that horse is the most natural jumper I’ve ever had in my stable. And he was right, for the old horse has only given me one bad toss in twelve years, and that was no fault of his own, for he landed on a stump of a willow tree; it was at that rough fence just outside Clout’s Wood—nasty place too—you remember I showed it you the other day, Steve;” all of which Stephen had probably heard fifty times before, and had been shown the ‘nasty place’ half a dozen times into the bargain. It was only when he heard the distant booming of the luncheon-gong that the Colonel was able to tear himself away from the brown horse’s loose-box.
Upper: Glyn Warren Philpot, Portrait of Siegfried Sassoon, 1917.
Center: John Frederick Herring, Sr. (1795-1865), A Bay Hunter In A Loose Box, date unknown.
Lower: Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs Of A Fox-Hunting Man, 1928.