Reginald in Russia and Other Stories
"The Major is coming in to tea," said Mrs. Hoopington to her niece. "He's just gone round
to the stables with his horse. Be as bright and lively as you can; the poor man's got a fit of
Major Pallaby was a victim of circumstances, over which he had no control, and of his
temper, over which he had very little. He had taken on the Mastership of the Pexdale
Hounds in succession to a highly popular man who had fallen foul of his committee, and
the Major found himself confronted with the overt hostility of at least half the hunt, while
his lack of tact and amiability had done much to alienate the remainder. Hence
subscriptions were beginning to fall off, foxes grew provokingly scarcer, and wire
obtruded itself with increasing frequency. The Major could plead reasonable excuse for
his fit of the glooms.
In ranging herself as a partisan on the side of Major Pallaby Mrs. Hoopington had been
largely influenced by the fact that she had made up her mind to marry him at an early
date. Against his notorious bad temper she set his three thousand a year, and his
prospective succession to a baronetcy gave a casting vote in his favour. The Major's plans
on the subject of matrimony were not at present in such an advanced stage as Mrs.
Hoopington's, but he was beginning to find his way over to Hoopington Hall with a
frequency that was already being commented on.
"He had a wretchedly thin field out again yesterday," said Mrs. Hoopington. "Why you
didn't bring one or two hunting men down with you, instead of that stupid Russian boy, I
"Vladimir isn't stupid," protested her niece; "he's one of the most amusing boys I ever
met. Just compare him for a moment with some of your heavy hunting men--"
"Anyhow, my dear Norah, he can't ride."
"Russians never can; but he shoots."
"Yes; and what does he shoot? Yesterday he brought home a woodpecker in his game-
"But he'd shot three pheasants and some rabbits as well."
"That's no excuse for including a woodpecker in his game-bag."
"Foreigners go in for mixed bags more than we do. A Grand Duke pots a vulture just as
seriously as we should stalk a bustard. Anyhow, I've explained to Vladimir that certain
birds are beneath his dignity as a sportsman. And as he's only nineteen, of course, his
dignity is a sure thing to appeal to."