A Hunting We will go - Part 2
By Norma Williams
In which George hones his equestrian skills to a fine edge; Mother has a long walk, Horace has a shock, Wayne has a terrible hangover, and the Fox has a jolly good supper.
and as for Tracy...
Mother stared happily out over the flat Trent Valley towards the blue hills of Derbyshire and the Peaks. The sick terror had departed now, and it was a beautiful day. What a pity, she thought, that George couldn't share it with her.
Two and a half inches above her right knee, George peered short sightedly out at the same view. Views are lost on ferrets, and in any case George was enveloped in the steam which rose from Zanti, who was now extremely hot. "And they say we smell" he thought. There was a thunder of hooves behind them. It was the Major, who'd been following them all day. Nearly 90 and failing fast, you had to give him credit for hunting at all. The Major's eyesight is not too good either, which is why it gave him quite a shock when he saw George peering out from under the saddle. He gave a bleat of terror and reached for his brandy.
Gilly and Sid were keeping up quite well, Sid knows every inch of the country and they had taken all the short cuts. When they saw a group of horsemen around a stricken figure, they trotted over to watch and sat on the bottom rung of an old fence. The huntsman, the new master, together with mother and a few others were staring down at the Major. "Is he dead?" the master was asking hopefully.
(There is a certain amount of cachet in hunting a country which is dangerous enough to kill a rider, and he didn't really like the Major much... and besides, hunting funerals are always such fun.)
"No Sir" said Bert the huntsman.
"It was Mrs Williams, Sir," he continued with a perfectly blank face.
"What's she done now?"
"The Major says she's possessed, Sir"
Now the Master looked blank. "Possessed, what do you mean, possessed - possessed of what?"
"Not of Sir, by. He said she's possessed by the devil. He says she's got little yellow goblins growing out of her sir. Then he sort of screamed, like, sir and then 'e fell off 'is 'orse."
There was a loud snore from the figure on the floor.
"Drunken old sod" snarled the Master, then glared at Mother, who was bright red.
"Well she can't be possessed while she's out with my hounds, if she wants to consort with the devil she can do it in her own time."... "Load of peasants" he thought, and galloped off in a shower of mud. He wished he was with the Quorn in Leicestershire where people knew how to behave.
Gilly felt sorry for Mother. Then she heard a familiar sound.
"Pssst." It seemed to be coming from the sky. She looked up. Hanging from the back of Zanti's saddle like a very small extra in a John Wayne movie was her brother. He was hanging onto the saddle with one paw - the other was waving wildly in her direction. He jabbed the free paw in the direction of the figure on the floor.
"Go through his pockets," he shouted.
"I will not," said Gilly, shocked. Zanti was moving off.
George shouted again. "Get his credit cards..."
"Ignore him Sid" said Gilly.
Sid was rigid with disapproval.
Zanti was galloping again now, George's voice floated back... "and... any... chocolate..."
George was actually quite safe under the saddle, when the horse was galloping. There is quite a large gap between the horse's back and the saddle. He would only have been in trouble if Zanti had arched her back to jump, and Mother had lost her bottle and avoided jumping when she possibly could. Until they came to the field of kale. Kale is winter feed for sheep and consists of huge cabbage plants about three or even four feet high. Zanti hated the feel of the wet kale around her legs.
"Hang on," she said, "I'm going to jump."
And that was when George dug his claws in.
Now there has been an awful lot written about what you can do when a horse bucks, but really there is only one thing to say and that is, if a horse bucks you will come off. Zanti grunted with rage, gave three rip snorting bucks and Mother flew into orbit. She landed in the wet cabbage with a dull thud, and staggered groggily to her feet. As she got up she was felled by a blow to the chest as George, who'd been on a slightly higher trajectory, smacked into her.
She came round slowly to find a familiar yellow, whiskery, face staring into hers.
"Are you dead yet?" It asked comfortingly.
"George. How did you get here?" She gave him a hug, they picked themselves up and walked to the lane where Zanti was grazing, with one eye cocked in their direction. She was very, very angry.
"I said no ferrets," she snapped, "You know I said no ferrets - I said he'd dig his claws in and he did." She put her ears back and waved her head at them. Thoroughbred mares are formidable animals and you do very well to listen when they start asserting themselves. She wouldn't let mother remount, not with George. They were seven miles from home. Now seven miles is nothing on a fit horse, but on foot, in hunting boots it is a long, long way. Mother tried negotiating. She sat George on the gatepost.
"We'll come back for you George," she said.
"No," said George firmly. "You're not to leave me." He glanced nervously up and down the lane.
"There's wild animals out here, something could eat me." He turned the knife a little. "And I've got a cold," he sniffed. "I'd god a code in by hed. Lots of little ferrets die of codes." He drooped mournfully.
"I expect ferrets die of all sorts of things," said Zanti.
So, stuck with both of them, Mother began the trek home. Dragged along by 498 kilos of hungry horse and weighed down by 2.5 kilos of wet ferret (For George had insisted on the nice warm space inside her hunting coat, and indeed had managed to hop inside with great speed and agility for one suffering from a heavy cold). Her heels soon began to bleed. The smell of wet, cold cabbage was overpowering.
Half a mile further she picked up two more passengers, Gilly and Sid. Sid was far too shy to crawl down her front, so he sat on her shoulder.
As they neared home Horace appeared, creaking along on his old bicycle. He had been out to check on his beasts and was now on his way back to the Bell.
"Why aren't you riding lass?" he asked.
"She's a bit lame," said mother and blushed.
"No I'm not," snapped Zanti. "I won't let her get back on," she said smugly to Horace. Horace settled himself against his bike and prepared to give Mother a lecture on animal management.
Then he noticed that she looked even stranger than usual. This was because a stoat was sitting by her right ear. It touched its forelock politely and nodded at Horace. Then he noticed her chest. He knew he shouldn't look at a lady's chest but Mother's seemed to have doubled in size since the morning and it was heaving and wheezing in rather an unsettling manner. As he watched, it twitched, heaved, burped, said "Beg pardon," then began to wheeze again. As it heaved her shirt came open. Horace saw her chest. It was covered with dense pale brown fur. He leapt onto his bike and pedalled for his life back to the pub.
"By 'eck," he said to his pal Armer over a much neede pint of bitter, "that there mennypaws does terrible things to a woman."
It was lovely to sit in the warm Land Rover, and even nicer to see the lights of home. As they bumped back down the drive, the Fox passed them going in the opposite direction. It was a much fatter Fox than it had been that morning, and it was dragging something behind it. Something black and limp. And Dead. He gave George a friendly thumbs up, as they passed. "Who was that, darling?" asked Mother.
"Just a little friend from the wood."
"I wish you wouldn't go to Bog Wood, George, it's not a nice place."
"I like it," said George.
As soon as they got home the 'phone rang. It was the landlord from the Bell. There was trouble. Wayne, he said, had taken over the karaoke machine. He was singing "Born to Run". He had also sung "I'm Too Sexy for my Shirt", "The Birdie Song", and "My Way". The rest of the Weasels were dancing on the bar. Once you've got line dancing Weasels on the bar, he said grimly, you've sold your last pint.
"I know that lot from Bog Wood are something to do with you," he said. "Come and get them. Now."
As the Land Rover pulled up outside the Bell, the door was flung open, a large cardboard box was thrown out, and the door slammed again. "And don't come back".
The journey home was not nice. They had to stop every 500 yards for Wayne to be sick. Once he scored a direct hit down Mother's boot. This made changing gear most unpleasant and a bit, well, squishey.
They stopped the Land Rover outside Bog Wood. It was very quiet, and very, very dark. The ferrets and weasels could see, but Mother couldn't see anything at all. She decanted the still singing weasels into a wheelbarrow. "I'll need you, George," she said.
"I'm not going in there," said George firmly. "I'll set my cold off."
So Mother, Gilly and Sid pushed the wheelbarrow into the wood, then Sid and Gilly jumped onto her shoulders and attempted to guild her by gentle pulls on her hair, left and right. She still seemed to bump into an awful lot of trees. George's cunning yellow face watched them from the safety of the truck.
When she found somewhere disgusting enough for Wayne to live in, she tipped them all out in a heap on the floor, - they staggered off.
"Steady the buffs."
"It must have been the meat pie."
"Did you see me dancin'?"
"Has anyone seen our Tracy?"
"Born in the U.S.A..."
"The reccccord shows... I took the blooows... " bawled Wayne. Then he fell flat on his face and lay motionless.
Sid's little home was immaculate. They lowered him gently to the ground, where he gave Mother a polite little bow, blew Gilly a kiss, and vanished.
The journey out of the wood was even worse because Gilly had gone all girlie. "Oh that Sid is awful," she kept saying, burying her hot little face into Mother's neck and giggling. They bumped into even more trees that time.
"I'm really tired," said Mother to George, "but at least nothing else can happen now."
There was police car parked outside the kitchen door. Its blue light was flashing.
"I think Tracy's come home," said George.
A police sergeant approached them. "Are you responsible for these?" He was holding two small animals by their scruffs.
"These" were Tracy and Henry. Henry looked shifty. Tracy looked smug. They had been arrested. In town.
"How did they get to Town?"
They had got there in the trailer. Jim had made a detour after the meet to go to the bank. While he was in the bank, the groom's door of the trailer had swung open and Tracy and Henry had dropped out, still, er... en congress, as it were, they had rolled across Market Street and bounced off the cash dispenser. Five minutes later they were surrounded by a cheering crowd of Christmas shoppers.
Then the police had arrived.
"I'm very sorry if they've upset anyone," said Mother humbly, "especially the children at Christmas." Now the local children had found it hilarious, it takes more than bonking weasels and ferret to upset today's children but he wasn't letting her off the hook that easily.
"If you don't control them, I'll arrest you too," he snapped. Then he turned to Tracy and Henry.
"You two have now got a police record," he said sternly.
"Ohh ta very much," said Tracy.
The police car roared off. "And get some knickers," he yelled back.
Jim appeared in the door. "Who's got to get some knickers?"
As one, the animals all pointed at Mother.
"Not me," she gasped. "It was Tracy."
But Tracey had vanished.
"That's right, blame an innocent animal," said George.
"She's been with a man all day," he added, "until he collapsed, that is."
"It was the Major! He's nearly 90!"
"Look at all the muc on her breeches, you can tell she's been rolling around," said George, really putting the boot in. "That should liven the evening up," he thought.
"I know you were only joking darling, but it was a bit naughty."
They were sitting in the dark, cold car, eating fish and chips. Jim had thrown them out and locked the door. "Trollop," he had shouted after her.
Henry and Gilly were sharing a piece of fish. George was sharing Mother's fish and chips. He was in hog heaven as spearing the juicy fish with a grubby claw, he shovelled it into his mouth and chewed, his evil little pussy cat face screwed up in bliss. Fat from the chips rolled down his whiskers and dripped back into the chips.
"She'll have food poisoning tomorrow to go with everything else," thought Gilly.
It was no use, she thought. Whatever George did was alright with Mother, you just couldn't help her.
"At least things can't get any worse," she thought.
And she curled up and went to sleep.
(First published in the Winter 2000)
The Fete Worse Than Death
In which Spring comes to Bog Wood, home of England's more useless predators.
Barry the Buzzard has parenting problems,
Mother plans a happy day out,
George makes plans of his own,
Gilly gets all tied up and Sid comes to the rescue...
and as for Tracy...