Charlie Dursdale took up hunting the season after he became a partner at London brokers Hoggitt Capital. It had been an ambition of his to ride to hounds the day he realised that those who tally-hoed together traded together. Networking had long been Charlie’s talent and his rise in the City had consequently been faster than an elevator in the Shard.
Within a decade of his arrival, the boy from Essex had acquired a Porsche 911 Turbo, a trophy wife, a Kensington townhouse and a rural retreat, although work allowed him little time to play with any of them. On Friday nights he would struggle with the M3 traffic to get to his Wiltshire country house where, for 48 hours, he would take on the mantle of squire – although his suburban childhood and business of churning made him an outsider among the county set. His plan to redress this slight was to hunt.
Charlie, at his mother’s insistence, had learnt to ride as a teenager. He was never much good at it, however, having always been more interested in girls than horses. So when Clarissa More-Smythe’s nag had bolted after he’d jammed a nugget of root ginger up its bottom, the local pony club expelled him and he temporarily hung up his spurs. Now he was ready to climb into the saddle again. After a summer of riding lessons and several weeks with his tailor – it was important to look the part – he was set to chase his namesake, Charlie Fox.
He could, of course, only hunt on a Saturday, which was considered by the full‑time members of the East Wiltshire Hunt as the amateur’s day out. During the week, the Master, whippers-in and a dozen EWH stalwarts would ride like dervishes, leaping high fences and sailing over wide ditches in pursuit of the bushy-tailed carnivore, hunting within a whisper of the law. But on Saturdays, scores of immaculately kitted-out City boys and their pushy wives in tailored jackets and skin-tight breeches would arrive on expensive horses and turn the meet into a cocktail party, with lashings of strong booze, sausage rolls and gossip taken before the first hoof had been hacked.
That first Saturday, Charlie arrived at the meet and, over a stirrup cup of port, was introduced to David Hamblett‑Green, an important player in the City – and therefore a useful future contact. However, there was little opportunity for the two men to cement a friendship as Hamblett-Green – a superb horseman – led the charge, while Charlie struggled at the back of the field. His horse refused at a low post and rail fence, shied when trotting past a noisy tractor and finally tossed him off its back after stumbling at a ditch.
The following weekend, Charlie was more cautious and, instead of cosying up to Hamblett-Green, opted to chat up the financier’s stunning, flame-haired wife, Suzie. She, like Charlie, preferred making whoopee to horse-whispering, and the hunting crowd would sometimes snigger that she would be buried in a Y-shaped coffin. The field set off, following a formal trail laid earlier in the day – the chase had to be seen to be hunting within the law, after all. Charlie and Suzie and the half-dozen other suspect riders were given a wide berth in case of accidents, with the result that half-an-hour later the couple were lagging a long way behind the rest.
In a futile attempt to make up ground, Suzie kicked her beast into a gallop, lost control and was unseated as she attempted to jump a hawthorn hedge. She landed face down in the mud while her untrustworthy steed cantered home. Charlie immediately assumed the role of hero. He climbed off his horse and went to her aid, wiping the mud from her face with his handkerchief. Alone with Suzie behind the hedge, his tenderness turned into a caress; then his kiss became a hug that quickly developed into steamy foreplay.
A hunt follower, some distance away from the impulsive lovers, had, out of the corner of his eye, spotted Suzie’s flapping red hair and, thinking it was a rogue fox, hollered “Tally-ho!” – a cry heard by the Field Master. The hunt turned back on itself, the hounds gave full chase and the riders – with David Hamblett-Green prominent among them – were, moments later, leaping the hawthorn hedge beneath which Charlie and Suzie were enjoying their Kama Sutra moment.