A Cub Hunting Invitation by Unknown

Monday.—Received letter from Pownceby. "Come down to my little place and we'll do a morning's cubbing. Can mount you. Say Tuesday night by 6.5, and I'll meet you at Chickenham Station." Deuced good of Pownceby. Hardly known him a week. Will wire at once to accept.

Tuesday.—Go down by 6.5 train. Pouring all the way. Wonder how far Chickenham is. Inquire, and am told next station. Pownceby receives me on platform. Awfully dark and still raining. Hope he has brought closed carriage of some sort. Hate open carts this weather. Pownceby greets me heartily. Seems a deuced good chap this. So thoroughly pleased to see me. "My little place only a short step from here, so hope you won't mind walking? Porter will take your bag. Yes, the roads are a bit muddy, but that's nothing. Ready? We'll start, then." Don't think walking is quite in my line, especially on pouring wet night. We trudge along dark lane, splashing into deep puddles at every other step. "Don't mind going a little out of our way, do you?" says Pownceby, "must just run into the butcher's and the grocer's to take a few things home with me." We diverge into dimly-lit street. Pownceby disappears into shop, leaving me standing outside. Seems to be at least an hour in grocer's; another ten minutes in butcher's. My teeth chattering now. Start again, and walk on and on. Ask, "Where's your place, are we anywhere near it?" "Oh, close by," says Pownceby, cheerily. Trudge on again; wet through by this time. Am seriously marshalling supply of cuss-words into their places for use in the near future, when Pownceby suddenly grips my arm, dropping pound of sausages from under his own at same moment. They fall into puddle. "There's my little place, old chap." Wish he wouldn't "old chap" me. Hardly know the fellow, and begin to hate him now. He picks up sausages, and repeats, "there's my little place; jolly little crib, ain't it?" Fear Pownceby is vulgar, never noticed it before. Can just see feeble light in cottage window, apparently miles off. Murmur, faintly, "Oh, I see," and struggle along again. My boots like wet paper, now, and trying to imitate suction pump. Do rest of journey silently. Cottage at last. Pownceby lifts latch, and we enter. Smell of lamp-oil overpowering. Pownceby's "little place" is labourer's four-roomed cottage, and singularly dirty at that. Met by aggressive elderly female, even dirtier than cottage. Pownceby silently hands her mud-stained sausages and two chops, wrapped in newspaper. I don't exactly dine, says Pownceby to me, "I have supper, you know; same thing, only different name. Being a bachelor, I make no fuss with anyone." Rather wish he would. "Come upstairs and put yourself straight. Mind that loose board. Not 'up to weight,' as we say, eh?" Avoid loose plank and stumble upstairs into sloping-roofed attic. Painted wooden bedstead; ditto washstand. Smells musty. Paper peeling off walls, and ceiling coming down in patches. I shudder, and ask when I may expect portmanteau. "Oh, in about an hour, I daresay. Got all you want? Sure that you're quite comfortable?" Mem. This man evidently an unconscious humorist. Have to borrow (greatly against my will) some dry clothes of Pownceby's in absence of my own. Wash, and descend ricketty stairs to sitting room. Fire smokes. "Like me," says Pownceby, facetiously, and laughs uproariously. Must have very keen sense of humour, this man. Aggressive female enters with two chops (fried) and ditto sausages; small jug of table beer and tinned loaf complete picture. "Let's fall to," says Pownceby; "you see your meal before you. None of your French dishes for me!" (Mem. nor for me either, unfortunately,) "but, good, plain, English food, eh?" Do not reply, but attack sausage. Decline fried chop. Beer turgid; leave it untasted; Thank goodness, my portmanteau arrives during repast. Pay porter half-a-crown—looks as if he had earned it. Pownceby finishes off my chop and his own too, smacks his lips, and produces bottle of "cooking" brandy. I light cigar, and take one sip of the brandy. Find one sip more than satisfying and do not try another. "Got a nice horse for you, to-morrow," says Pownceby; "he ain't a beauty, but a real good 'un. Useful horse, too. Does all the chain-harrowing and carting work. Must start at 5 A.M. sharp and get breakfast afterwards." I nod. Am past the speaking stage now. Retire to bed, damp and shivering, and very hungry. Find mouse seated on dressing table, regarding me contemptuously. Shy boot at him. Miss mouse, but smash mirror. Feel glow of unholy satisfaction at this. Toss about all night.

Wednesday.—Rise 4.30, dress by candle-light, and crawl down stairs. Ask Pownceby where are horses? "Oh, we'll walk round to the stable for 'em," says Pownceby. Plod through many puddles, and enter evil smelling shed. Labourer saddling melancholy grey, elaborately stained on both quarters. "There you are, and as good as they make 'em." Don't know who "they" are, but wish "they" would "make 'em" a little cleaner. Mount, and am joined by Pownceby on equine framework. Beginning to rain again. "This is jolly, eh?" he says. "Oh, awfully," I reply, feebly, as my wreck nearly blunders down on to his fiddle head. Arrive at meet 6.30. "Oh, the 'ounds 'as bin gorn this 'arf hour or more. The meet was at six," says a yokel.

Pownceby borrows fiver on road home. Caught 10.15 back to town, and if ever——!