Beasts and Super-Beasts
THE hunting season had come to an end, and the Mullets had not succeeded in selling the
Brogue. There had been a kind of tradition in the family for the past three or four years, a
sort of fatalistic hope, that the Brogue would find a purchaser before the hunting was
over; but seasons came and went without anything happening to justify such ill-founded
optimism. The animal had been named Berserker in the earlier stages of its career; it had
been rechristened the Brogue later on, in recognition of the fact that, once acquired, it
was extremely difficult to get rid of. The unkinder wits of the neighbourhood had been
known to suggest that the first letter of its name was superfluous. The Brogue had been
variously described in sale catalogues as a light- weight hunter, a lady's hack, and, more
simply, but still with a touch of imagination, as a useful brown gelding, standing 15.1.
Toby Mullet had ridden him for four seasons with the West Wessex; you can ride almost
any sort of horse with the West Wessex as long as it is an animal that knows the country.
The Brogue knew the country intimately, having personally created most of the gaps that
were to be met with in banks and hedges for many miles round. His manners and
characteristics were not ideal in the hunting field, but he was probably rather safer to ride
to hounds than he was as a hack on country roads. According to the Mullet family, he
was not really road-shy, but there were one or two objects of dislike that brought on
sudden attacks of what Toby called the swerving sickness. Motors and cycles he treated
with tolerant disregard, but pigs, wheelbarrows, piles of stones by the roadside,
perambulators in a village street, gates painted too aggressively white, and sometimes,
but not always, the newer kind of beehives, turned him aside from his tracks in vivid
imitation of the zigzag course of forked lightning. If a pheasant rose noisily from the
other side of a hedgerow the Brogue would spring into the air at the same moment, but
this may have been due to a desire to be companionable. The Mullet family contradicted
the widely prevalent report that the horse was a confirmed crib-biter.
It was about the third week in May that Mrs. Mullet, relict of the late Sylvester Mullet,
and mother of Toby and a bunch of daughters, assailed Clovis Sangrail on the outskirts of
the village with a breathless catalogue of local happenings.
"You know our new neighbour, Mr. Penricarde?" she vociferated; "awfully rich, owns tin
mines in Cornwall, middle-aged and rather quiet. He's taken the Red House on a long
lease and spent a lot of money on alterations and improvements. Well, Toby's sold him
Clovis spent a moment or two in assimilating the astonishing news; then he broke out
into unstinted congratulation. If he had belonged to a more emotional race he would
probably have kissed Mrs. Mullet.
"How wonderfully lucky to have pulled it off at last! Now you can buy a decent animal.
I've always said that Toby was clever. Ever so many congratulations."