Fox Hunter and Gentlemen of Maryland
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Gordon Grand was confronted by one of the most difficult tasks that could be set for a literary craftsman. To be sure, the author of “The Silver Horn” knows and loves horses, hounds, foxhunting, great foxhunters, the life-long passions and the casual whimsicalities of the sport; and he has the art of conveying to his readers the stirrings of his own blood and imagination. But, to produce on order, as it were, – even though it be a labor of love, a memorial biography of the simple, modest gentleman whose significance in life lay not chiefly or even largely in service rendered from positions in the public eye; to set down the relatively meager objective facts- and at the same time to invest the volume with verve, spontaneity and distinction, – was all but an impossibility. What conscientious, lifeless books, with their labored enthusiasms, occur to one! Poignantly realizing the pitfalls, Mr. Graand has not only shown an infinite capacity for taking pains to gather what records there were of objective facts in Redmond Stewart’s life, but, more vivid, – and so elusive, – to capture the unwritten and often unwritable emanations of the man that existed in the hearts and memory of friends, neighbors, and fellow sportsmen. Elusive. Unwritable. Some of them near to nothing in themselves, but so eloquently revealing when they came from Redmond! Regard him, par exemple, entering Grand Central Station, bound for a night’s visit to a friend in Connecticut. His face is tanned and ruddied by the winds and suns of a thousand days in the open air, a face with anything but a classic profile, – rather in the mold of his beloved Ireland. It is in the soul-staggering Summer of 1932. The blue serge suit looks worn and is manifestly shiny in spots. Headgear is a hunting bowler, – trying hat in city surroundings, even without suggestions of honorable scars. He carries a bulgy cowhide suit-case somewhat bowed in the tendons, two light-colored pajama strings trail from it. His soft shirt and collar have been through a sweaty day and the journey from Baltimore is not yet being made in cinderless, air-conditioned cars. Red-capped porters must, from their point of view, have a sixth sense to spot at a glance patrons free with their quarters. But does this one who approaches Redmond Stewart to take the suitcase show a hint of reluctance, or anything less than the fine flower of service colored people reserve for quality folks? Now how does that Harlem negro, busy harassed and hot from chasing silver coins, know instantly that he is escorting to a seat in the smoking car a very great gentleman? Or follow Redmond to Nantucket Island where he and his wife are guests at a modest cottage: The sport is the very moderate one of hare hunting; the small pack of hounds merel over-size beagles; the M.H. a young girl; rarely are there any obstacles for the horses to jump. But this master hunter of foxes, this superb horseman, this winner of Maryland Hunt Cups, misses, with the keen and sympathetic blue eye, nothing that hound or huntsman or hare does or does not do his honest zest and enthusiasm are more than any other rider’s in the field. A wise old hound conscious of its superior cunning in unravelling the defense of a road-running hare, arouses his intense interest and admiration. He revels in the footing as he gallops over the vast lonely moors. “Charley,” he says, hacking hoeward, “what I should like mightily to see would be B. Master of a really first rate pack of foxhounds in a good country” and the brief silence that ensures finds his mind obviously revolving not to impossible approaches to that end. Let the scene shift on a Sunday to a quiet hack through the sweet loneliness of the high moors, with horizon glimpses of the manes of white horses charging in from the Atlantic. He is keen in noting and discussing rare and shy curlew and upland plover that flush from the wild hill-cranberries. Suddenly two splendid buck deer are started on the open moor by a pair of busy fox terriers, to bound away with the infinite frace towards a distant edge of stunted pine woods. “Come on!” he shouts. “Let’s see if they can run as fast as a blood horse.” There is a real race for five minutes, the bucks maintaining an even lead of fifty yards or so. “I never enjoyed a gallop so much in my life,” Redmond says, and debates honestly and carefully whether those deer were really doing their best or whether they would have drawn away if hounds were giving tongue on their line. Redmond was then sixty years old. Was it Arthur Pendennis who, telling of the incomparable zest of CLive NEwcome’s ingenious youth, said that the young man found a certain pleasure in a bottle of claret which most men’s systems were incapable of feeling? When such slight things have been recalled and said about Redmond Stewart, – nothing has been said, save to those whose lives were enriched by knowing him. All who did know him are deeply indebted to Gordon Grand for the days and weeks and months he has spent in producing this volume, with its mission in preserving and carrying to others the spirit of a sportsman and a gentleman.