Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/169

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125
RURAL SPORTS

The next moment the stag broke cover with the whole pack hard upon his heels. The hardiest and most enthusiastic hunters followed the hunt in all its windings, encouraging the hounds, ridiculing false moves, and in every way assisting as far as possible in turning the stag towards some difficult piece of country where he could be more easily tired out and brought to bay. It was at this point that a knowledge of the topography of the surrounding country, of the animal's habits, of artificial obstructions or toils, etc., often enabled one to tell in advance where the stag would find himself compelled to stand at bay. To this point less hardy riders and the women, for hunting was a sport often enjoyed by women, would repair to await the critical moment of the finish.

Through fatigue, or through being cornered, the panting stag would at last be brought to bay. This moment was always one of extreme danger to the hounds, for many of them were often maimed or even killed outright by the infuriated stag. Note how Shakespeare, who was keenly interested in all matters pertaining to the hunt, describes in Venus and Adonis this fatal moment:

"Here kennel'd in a brake she finds a hound,
And asks the weary caitiff for his master,
And there another licking of his wound,
'Gainst venom'd sores the only sovereign plaster;