The American Senator HTML version

22. Jemima
As the meet on the next morning was in the park the party at Rufford Hall was
able to enjoy the luxury of an easy morning together with the pleasures of the
field. There was no getting up at eight o'clock, no hurry and scurry to do twenty
miles and yet be in time, no necessity for the tardy dressers to swallow their
breakfasts while their more energetic companions were raving at them for
compromising the chances of the day by their delay. There was a public
breakfast down-stairs, at which all the hunting farmers of the country were to be
seen, and some who, only pretended to be hunting farmers on such occasions.
But up-stairs there was a private breakfast for the ladies and such of the
gentlemen as preferred tea to champagne and cherry brandy. Lord Rufford was
in and out of both rooms, making himself generally agreeable. In the public room
there was a great deal said about Goarly, to all of which the Senator listened with
eager ears,--for the Senator preferred the public breakfast as offering another
institution to his notice. "He'll swing on a gallows afore he's dead," said one
energetic farmer who was sitting next to Mr. Gotobed,--a fat man with a round
head, and a bullock's neck, dressed in a black coat with breeches and top-boots.
John Runce was not a riding man. He was too heavy and short-winded;--too fond
of his beer and port wine; but he was a hunting man all over, one who always
had a fox in the springs at the bottom of his big meadows, one to whom it was
the very breath of his nostrils to shake hands with the hunting gentry and to be
known as a staunch friend to the U.R.U. A man did not live in the county more
respected than John Runce, or who was better able to pay his way. To his
thinking an animal more injurious than Goarly to the best interests of civilisation
could not have been produced by all the evil influences of the world combined.
"Do you really think," said the Senator calmly, "that a man should be hanged for
killing a fox?" John Runce, who was not very ready, turned round and stared at
him. "I haven't heard of any other harm that he has done, and perhaps he had
some provocation for that." Words were wanting to Mr. Runce, but not
indignation. He collected together his plate and knife and fork and his two
glasses and his lump of bread, and, looking the Senator full in the face, slowly
pushed back his chair and, carrying his provisions with him, toddled off to the
other end of the room. When he reached a spot where place was made for him
he had hardly breath left to speak. "Well," he said, "I never--!" He sat a minute in
silence shaking his head, and continued to shake his head and look round upon
his neighbours as he devoured his food.
Up-stairs there was a very cosy party who came in by degrees. Lady Penwether
was there soon after ten with Miss Penge and some of the gentlemen, including
Morton, who was the only man seen in that room in black. Young Hampton, who
vas intimate in the house, made his way up there and Sir John Purefoy joined the
party. Sir John was a hunting man who lived in the county and was an old friend
of the family. Lady Purefoy hunted also, and came in later. Arabella was the last,-