There is no more delightful half-holiday entertainment for an early spring afternoon than a good paper-chase.
Girls, as well as boys, of all ages, may well take part in the fun, for, clad in knitted caps and jerseys, short kilted skirts worn over blue serge knickerbockers, and the stoutest of country boots or shoes, they can come to no harm; and the general rough and tumble of a cross-country scramble over hedges and ditches, out in the sunshine and fresh air, will do them all the good in the world after a week spent, more or less, indoors over lesson books and piano practising.
Invitations to take part in a paper-chase should be sent out a fortnight beforehand, and any number of children, from eight or ten up to five-and-twenty, may be invited.
The meet should take place on the lawn not later than 2.3o, and when everyone has assembled the hostess decides really well. The paper to scatter as " scent " is in a bag slung from his shoulder which of the guests shall take the part of hare, and which that of the hounds.
The "Hare" Starts
For a small party one hare is sufficient, who should be someone knowing the country
For a small party only one hare will be needed, and, as in this case, a boy - usually the young son of the house, who will presumably be acquainted with the general lie of the land within a two or three mile radius of the house - is. as a rule, chosen. For a bigger party there should, be two hares - a boy and a girl. The Meet
In order to lend still further excitement and a greater air of reality to the chase, one of the hounds - generally the eldest boy of the party - is armed with a good loudly cracking whip, to act as "whipper-in"; while one of the smaller boys is appointed "huntsman," and provided with a horn.
The hares are each provided with a small knapsack - or, failing this, a linen bag or pillow-case, made with string by which it can be slung over the hare's shoulders, will answer every purpose - well filled with fragments of torn-up newspaper with which to lay the trail.
When all is ready for the start the hostess produces a watch, and at a given signal off in pursuit, ascertaining whither he has gone by the paper trail he must leave behind him tears the hare out of the garden and away, no one knows whither, but scattering a faint but clearly visible trail of white paper behind him as he runs. The hounds wait breathlessly during the five or ten minutes "start" which custom decrees must always be given to the hare, and then, as the second signal is given, away they go to find the trail, perhaps crossing the road and plunging into a small copse just on the other side.
The hounds allow the hare some minutes' start, and then stream
Here the trail will probably wind in and out amongst the bushes and trees, and here the huntsman's horn will prove very useful, when once the spoor is found, in keeping the hounds together.
The hare, on leaving the copse, has evidently sped up the hill behind it and over the hurdle fence, which, being much entwined with brambles, gives the feminine members of the pack a good deal of trouble to negotiate. At last they are all over and hot on the track of the hare, across a ploughed field, and over the ditch at the bottom which skirts it, and down into a long, winding country lane.
Soon a couple of miles have been covered, and the smaller members of the pack have fallen far behind, and those in the front can tell by the direction of the trail that the hare has headed for home. Now the track goes into a thick wood, and the scent is lost for some minutes, when it is discovered that the hare has run in a circle - thus losing time, and running a very sporting chance of being overtaken - and that the true track comes back again to within a few yards from where it entered the wood, and skirts along the edge of it for half a mile before crossing a wide ditch and two high fences, and dropping down into the road within half a mile from home.
A wild tooting of the horn, and shouts and cheers from what remains of the pack, announces the fact that the hare has been actually sighted tearing along a few hundred yards ahead, and much hampered by the necessity for diving into his bag and scattering paper as he goes. There is not a spurt left in him after a nearly four-mile run, but the hounds are rather fresher, and he is finally caught after a stout resistance - in which the almost empty bag flies about the ears of the hounds in most lively fashion - and is led in triumph into the gate of home. The wise hostess will have asked her guests to bring slippers and stockings to change into directly on their return, and after a general scrubbing and brushing and anointing of scratches with boracic ointment, a party of brilliantly rosy-cheeked young people troop downstairs for tea, spread like a hunt breakfast, in the dining-room. Plenty of hot scones and buns, honey, jam, thick bread-and-butter, and plain, substantial cake will be found the most appreciated fare, for children who have come from a distance will have had a very early luncheon; and hot milk, tea, and coffee will also be in great demand.
Red table decorations may be arranged, and plenty of red crackers; and if small calendars can be painted with hares and hounds' heads, or horns and whips, and placed before each child's plate, to be taken home as mementos of the occasion, they will give a delightful finishing touch to the proceedings.
In a neighbourhood where most of the boys or girls possess some sort of animal to ride - be it only a donkey - a pony and donkey paper-chase makes a delightful variation from the more ordinary hare and hounds played on foot.
In this case it is usual to choose the two hares beforehand, one of them being a grown-up person - either a trusty coachman or groom, or the father of one of the children who are to take part in the chase.
Armed with huge wallets of torn-up paper, they ride round the surrounding country the day before, choosing a course which will be exciting without being danger-ous, and laying a prelin.inary trail of paper, because for a pony paper-chase it is necessary to lay it much in thicker than for an ordinary chase on foot, in order that it may be easily seen whilsl riding at a sharp trot or canter, and it would be impossible to carry enough paper on the day of the chase; and also the exact course previously mapped out might be forgotten in the excitement of the moment, and more difficult jumps taken by the hare than those arranged.
The chosen course - which should be six or eight miles long - should include the jumping of one or two small ditches and the fording, if possible, of some shallow, pebbled stream; and it might wind in and out of a wood for a part of the way, in order to make it thoroughly interesting and exciting for the bigger boys and girls.
The children might all be asked to come to a ' hunt breakfast " - at 1 o'clock - to take the place of lunch, and the start should be timed for not later than 2.30. The hares are started, and the general proceedings are conducted exactly as for a paper-chase on foot, with this advantage, that, the course having been secretly mapped out beforehand, it is possible for the hares to give a hint to the hostess as to some point of vantage from which, if she and one or two chosen friends drive or motor there directly after the start, they will be able to see the entire party of hares and hounds in full cry crossing a road and skirting round a field, and then, speeding back, be in time to see the finish of the chase, the proceedings, as before, winding up with a merry hunting tea.
Hounds negotiating a difficult hurdle and bramble fence in full cry after the hare