Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1045
George Sherston was orphaned so early that he could not remember when he had not lived with his Aunt Evelyn at Butley. At the age of nine, he became the possessor of a pony, bought at the urgent request of Aunt Evelyn’s groom, Tom Dixon. Aunt Evelyn would not let...
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George Sherston was orphaned so early that he could not remember when he had not lived with his Aunt Evelyn at Butley. At the age of nine, he became the possessor of a pony, bought at the urgent request of Aunt Evelyn’s groom, Tom Dixon. Aunt Evelyn would not let George go to school until he was twelve years old, and his early training was given to him by an incompetent tutor, Mr. Star. Dixon, however, taught him to ride, and he valued this training more highly than anything Mr. Star taught him. Because George’s early life was often lonely, he welcomed the diversion of riding.
At last, Dixon thought George was ready to see some fox hunting. Since there was no hunting in the Sherston neighborhood, they had to ride about nine miles to the Dumborough Hunt, where George was thrilled by the color and excitement of the chase. He saw a boy of about his own age who carried himself well and was obviously one to be imitated. The next Friday at a dance, George saw the boy again and was pleased that the boy, Denis Milden, remembered seeing him at the hunt.
After his first year in school at Ballboro’, George was happy to be back at Aunt Evelyn’s. Dixon met him at the station with the word that he had secured a place for George on the village cricket team, which would play next day at the Flower Show Match. George had played good cricket at school, but he did not know how he would show up facing players of long experience. The next day he learned that he was to be last at bat, and he spent the afternoon trying to forget his nervousness. Once in the game, he suddenly gained confidence and brought his side to victory.
George’s trustee and guardian, Mr. Pennett, was disturbed when his ward quit Cambridge without a degree. George settled down with Aunt Evelyn at Butley. He played some cricket and some golf. He ordered a great many books from London. Dixon began to revive George’s interest in hunting, but Mr. Pennett would not give George the full amount of his annual income and so George could not afford the kind of horse he wanted. Dixon, however, soon found a suitable horse within the limits of George’s budget, a hunter named Harkaway. The season was well on, and George was out only three days. Later in the spring, he attended the Ringwell Hunt Point-to-Point Races, where Stephen Colwood, a friend whom he had known at Ballboro’, won the Heavy-Weight Race.
The following autumn, George made one of his rare trips to London. There he heard a concert by Fritz Kreisler and bought some clothes suitable for a fox-hunting man. His first hunting was with the Potford Hunt, an experience he found much more exciting than that he had known with the Dumborough. He also went down to Sussex to stay with Stephen at his father’s rectory. While visiting Stephen, George bought another horse, Cockbird, in defiance of Mr. Pennett. When he returned to Butley with his new horse, his Aunt Evelyn, realizing that he could not afford the hunter, sold one of her rings and gave George the money for Christmas.
Cockbird was more than a satisfactory horse. Riding him with the Ringwell Hounds, George qualified for the Colonel’s Cup Race. One of his competitors was riding a horse owned by Nigel Croplady, a noisy young braggart liked by very few people. Another competitor was his friend Stephen. During the race, Stephen was forced to drop back, but he encouraged George so much that George came in to win. As the afternoon came to a close, someone drew his attention to the new master of the Ringwell Hounds. It was Denis Milden.
That summer, George played in a number of cricket matches. Stephen, now in the artillery, spent a weekend at Butley. As autumn drew on, George became impatient for the hunting season to begin. Stephen, now stationed near his home, asked George to spend some time at the rectory and ride with the Ringwell Hounds. Nothing could have pleased George more, for he was a great admirer of Denis. The two became good friends, and George sometimes stayed at the kennels with Denis. Denis proved to be an excellent master; he was skillful in the hunt and careful and patient with his hounds.
Early in the following season, however, Denis resigned to become master of the Packlestone Hunt, and he insisted that George go up to the Midlands with him. George knew that he could not afford to ride with the Packlestone Hounds, but he went for the first season. He was always embarrassed, for he knew that his new friends were unaware of his economic limitations. The year was 1914.
War was declared. Aware of his incompetency as a soldier, George had turned down two opportunities to be an officer and was serving in the army as a cavalryman. It made him feel silly to have to salute Nigel Croplady. One day the horse George was riding threw him, and he broke his arm. Two months later, he was sent home to allow his arm to heal. One afternoon he went to see his neighbor, Captain Huxtable, and asked to be recommended for a commission in the infantry. The commission came through. George proceeded to his new camp. There he made friends with Dick Tiltwood, a pleasant young man not long out of school.
They crossed the Channel together and were assigned to a battalion coming back from the front for a rest. Dick and George spent many hours sightseeing, talking, and reading. George took Dick out riding frequently. They would pretend they were fox hunting. George, assigned to headquarters, felt rather shaken when Dick was sent to the trenches without him. Word reached George that Stephen had been killed. Dixon, who was also in service and who wanted to be transferred to George’s company, died of pneumonia. Then when George learned that Dick had died of a throat wound, he asked to be transferred to the trenches. There he served bravely, always angry at the war that had taken away his best friends.