Edith Somerville & Martin Ross, The Silver Fox (1897)
LADY SUSAN had never been so hungry in her life. So, for the sixth time, she declared between loud and unbridled yawns. She worked her chair across the parquet towards the fire-place, dragging the hearthrug into folds in her progress, and put her large and well-shod feet on the fender.
What a beast of a fire! When youve quite done with it, Bunny, I shouldnt mind seeing it just the same. You are a selfish thing!
In obedience to this rebuke Major Bunbury moved an inch or two to one side.
Im not as selfish as you are, he said, with agreeable simplicity. Miss Morris cant see anything but your boots,
Oh, she likes seeing boots, replied Lady Susan, establishing one on the bob. They dont have em in Ireland, do they, Slaney!
It was obviously the moment for Miss Morris to say something brilliant, but she let the opportunity slip. Perhaps she was hampered by the consciousness that her boots had been made in an Irish country town. She got red. She did not know that it was becoming to her to get red. Finding no more appropriate retort, she laughed, and pushing back her chair, walked over to the window. What she looked out on was the lawn at Hurlingham, covered smoothly and desolately with snow; a line of huddled, white hummocks of ice, moving very slowly across the middle distance, represented the River Thames; down to the right, five or six skaters glided on the black and serpentine curves of a little lake - they looked like marionettes sliding along a wire. Even at that distance they seemed to Slaney over-dressed and artificial. No doubt they were screaming inanities to each other, as were these other English idiots in the room behind her. How ineffably stupid they were, and how shy and provincial they made her feel! How could Hugh have married into such a pack?
One of the double doors at the end of the room opened, and a small, dark man appeared.
Awfully sorry to have kept you all waiting, he said abjectly. Im afraid its a bad business; they say that theres nothing to be had here on Sundays at this time of year, unless its ordered beforehand.
Oh Lord! ejaculated Lady Susan, bringing her foot and the shovel down with a crash. Do you mean to say theres nothing to eat?
Its not quite as bad as that, but precious nearly, he replied, looking at her so deplorably that Slaney felt inclined to laugh.
Were going to have some of the waiters dinner. Its a leg of mutton, and he says he dont think its quite boiled yet, but I said we wouldnt wait.
Lady Susan seized Major Bunburys hand, and pulled herself out of her chair. She was stalwart and tall, and her dress fitted beautifully. With a whisk and rustle of silk petticoats she was across the room and caught Miss Morris by the arm.
Worry, worry, worry! Sess, sess, sess! she said, with a sufficiently fortunate imitation of her fathers kennel huntsman. Come on and eat raw leg of mutton! I hope the waiter likes onion sauce!
In the dining-room a genial fire was blazing; a soft and rich- coloured carpet glowed on the floor; the atmosphere was of old- fashioned comfort; there was a desirable smell of fried potatoes. The party sank into their places at an oval table, and to each was administered a plateful of pink mutton that grew rosier at every- slice. Captain Hugh French, late of the —th Hussars, looked round upon his guests, and felt that champagne was the only reparation in his power.
I feel its all my fault bringing you people down here to starve. Youll have to take it out in drink, he said helplessly.
The words were addressed to the company, but his brown eyes, that were like the eyes of a good small dog, addressed themselves to those of his wife. Slaney, following them, wondered whether he could help seeing the black line frankly drawn along the edge of Lady Susans lower eye lids. The white glare from the snow showed it unsparingly, as she looked at her husband over the rim of the champagne glass from which she was drinking.
Yes, darling, youre a silly little thing, she said blandly; I always said that spill had given you softening of the brain.
What spill? asked Slaney. It was almost the first time she had spoken. She had sat, inwardly scornful and outwardly shy, in the midst of conversation whose knack she could not catch, and whose purport she thought either babyish or vulgar. There must be an English and an Irish form of humour, so at least it seemed to Slaney, as she listened with the intolerance of the clever provincial to Lady Susans loud and ready laugh. Hugh, at all events, was not, she thanked Heaven, humorous in either manner. She found herself less of a fool when she was talking to Hugh.
Im afraid you dont take much interest in your cousins misfortunes, Slaney, he said. Didnt you know that I was smashed up at Bangalore last spring, playing polo? I was trying to ride off this great brute, indicating Major Bunbury, and I got the worst of it. I was in hospital for a month, and grew a thundering big black beard. Couldnt shave for six weeks.
Dont make me sick, said Lady Susan, beginning heartily on biscuits and cheese. If Id known that in time I wouldnt have married you. A little man with a beards like a cob with a long tail. Couldnt do with you if youd a long tail, Hughie.
Im goin to grow another when we get down to Frenchs Court, retorted Hughie. I shant have anything else to do there. What on earth do you do with yourself at Letter Kyle, Slaney?
You grow a beard, Slaney? shouted Lady Susan, with her mouth full of biscuit. If Im bored over there I shall just dye my hair again. How do you like it now, Bunny? I got it done in Paris on our way through. I think it might be a bit redder.
Why, its as red as a fox now, said Major Bunbury, regarding it critically.
Talking of foxes, put in Slaney, endeavouring to be genial, they all expect Hugh to start the hounds again when he comes over. That will give you something to do, Hugh!
Tally ho! uttered Major Bunbury, with a subdued whoop. Thats a rippin good notion. Ill come over and whip for you, Hughie.
No, you wont! cried Lady Susan. Ill whip for him myself; but I dont believe he knows anything about it - does he, Bunny?
Oh dear, no! replied Major Bunbury, with elephantine sarcasm; hes a perfect owl. Cant think why we made him carry the horn till he left the regiment - and the funny thing was that he seemed quite up to the job.
Captain French took no notice of the compliment.
I cant imagine who the people are who want me to get up a pack there, he said, without much enthusiasm; last time I was over there seemed to be no one in the place but the parson and the two old Miss Macarthys. Theyd make a pretty sort of a hunt.
Oh, there are a lot of farmers, replied Slaney, and theres the police officer, and theres Mr. Glasgow, the contractor of the new railway. To her own surprise and annoyance she blushed as she spoke, and Major Bunbury, glancing incidentally at her, thought her almost handsome.
Glasgow, repeated Hugh; there was a chap called Glasgow at Eton with me. What sort of age is this man?
Oh, hes young - at least, not very young - I mean hes not exactly old; but hes older than you are, Hugh, replied Slaney, with incoherence probably due to the blush; his name is Wilfrid, she added. I think he did say something about having been at school with you.
Thats the man. Clever sort of chap; fancies himself a bit. I remember one of my pals was a fag of his, and said he was awfully particular about his toast. He wants hounds, does he? Why dont he get them up for himself?
Hes too busy; besides, he said you were the man to do it, Hugh. He said he had always heard you were a great rider, and knew all about your having won the Gold Cup at Punchestown. She was conscious of pleasure in the expounding of Mr. Glasgow.
Lady Susan, on the contrary, began to find it a bore.
Oh, look here, you people, she broke in, we cant sit here all day to listen to Hughie being made more conceited than he is. Come out and skate.
She snatched Major Bunburys plate from before him, and put it down in front of an expectant cat, flung a dinner napkin over her husbands head, and fell to arranging her fringe and veil at a looking-glass with minute care and entire disregard of the company.
As Miss Morris walked after her cousins wife down the snowy path to the lake, she framed with a confident touch the description that she would give of her to Mr. Glasgow. Scarcely less confidently, and with a comfortable sense of fore-knowledge of his ideas and point of view, she formulated the phrase in which he would give his opinion of Lady Susan. It was satisfactory to reflect that, though she was a failure in Lady Susans set, she found no difficulty in talking to intellectual people like Mr. Wilfrid Glasgow.
A light and stinging wind blew along the ice, powdering the surface with infinitely delicate particles of snow. The graceful lawns and slopes of Hurlingham stared in blank whiteness, the evergreens stood out unnaturally dark and trim in the colourless monotony; beyond the scrape and hiss of the skates the silence was extraordinary. Slaney did not enjoy herself. The south-west of Ireland is not the climate in which to lean skating; she toiled up against the wind with aching ankles, she drifted back in front of it, and finally, in bitter resentment of her ungainly helplessness, achieved the haven of a chair. Lady Susan swung and circled, and knew that her colour was rising in a manner more becoming than the best rouge that money could buy; Major Bunbury swung assiduously after her. Hugh was cutting intricate figures far away. Slaney began thinking of the gaunt after noon service in progress at that moment in the church of Letter Kyle. There would be no music because she was not there to play the harmonium; Uncle Charles would be longer and louder than ever over the responses to the Psalms now that her reproving eye was off him; Mr. Glasgow - - no, she felt tolerably sure that the Sundays of her absence would not be the ones selected by Mr. Glasgow for walking over to afternoon service at Letter Kyle.
Come along, Slaney, said Captain French, sailing down upon her with his hands extended, I know its poor fun for you, but you must keep at it.
They moved off together, and Slaney felt, as she often did, a glow of appreciation of Hughs desire to make things pleasant for others. She did not notice character very much, except at the, moments when it was in contact with herself. Between the manifestations of her cousins amiability towards her she habitually thought of him as merely unintellectual. At this stage of Slaneys history intellectual people were to her as irrevocably severed from the others as were the sheep from the goats.
Tell me more about this idea of the hounds, said Hugh, dodging behind the island to avoid the raking sweep of Lady Susans advance. What am I to hunt! Hares or foxes or a red herring?
Foxes, of course, replied Slaney; there are any amount of them. Uncle Charles shot two in our wood this autumn.
Good Lord! ejaculated Hugh; where does he expect to go when he dies?
Where do you think? answered Slaney, with an effort to be suitably flippant; if theres anything in the world that Uncle Charles is more convinced of than another it is that he always has moved in the highest circles, and that he always will.
Hugh laughed in his kindly, indiscriminating way.
By the way, went on Slaney, following up a connection of ideas, theres a curious story in the country now about a fox. Mr. Glasgow wanted gravel for the new railway, and bought a bit of a hillside from old Danny Quin at Cahirdreen. There was a big patch of furze there, and the men said that when the first blast went off a grey fox ran out of it and away into the hills; a sort of fox that no one had ever seen before. They say that there is an old prophecy about the bad luck that is to come when that hill is thrown into Tully Lake, and that is just what is to be done where the line crosses a corner of the lake. They believe that the fox is a witch or a fairy, and that it will bring them bad luck.
By Jove! thats rather interesting, said Hugh, steering Slaney into a chair and subsiding into another beside her; well have to kill that grey fox.
The men say he was more a silver colour, pursued Slaney, and Mike Driscoll told me he thought hed never ate another bit, afther he seen the way it legged it up the hill, an it lashin the tail and makin snouts at them like a thing thatd be grinnin and laughin. Slaney was very successful in her tendering of Mike Driscoll, and Hugh laughed again, his ugly little falsetto laugh, and felt that Slaney was a very good fellow indeed.
Lady Susan, doing Dutch roll, bore down upon them.
The horrid thing was lying on my feet, she was exclaiming to Major Bunbury, whose hand she was holding at the full stretch of both their arms. I never remembered that till this instant, - Hughie, she called to Captain French as they passed, and grasping at his chair she whirled round and came sitting on his knee - It really was a most awful dream, darling. I had it last night when you were snoring, and it suddenly came into my head now. I thought some ghastly thing was sitting on my feet, like a dog or something, and then suddenly it turned into a whitey, silvery sort of thing, a kind of Arctic fox, and the horrid thing was smiling and showing all its teeth. My word, I was in a funk, And then it turned out to be only the hot-water bag.
Its all tricks, Slaney, said Hugh, she heard what we were saying. He laughed and looked at Slaney, whose curious hazel- green eyes were fixed in consternation on Lady Susan.
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DANNY QUIN was to be buried that afternoon. It was the third day of the wake, and his house, always dependent for light on its open door, was dark with the crowd of people inside and outside the threshold. In the corner of the kitchen, behind the brute obstruction of human beings, awkward and inert with stale drink, half-a-dozen candles made a garish night-time round the dead man. He lay with the yellow flicker on his steadfast face, a presence of extraordinary refinement and soulful trance among his late fellows. He was an old man, in his lifetime a driver of bard bargains, a teller of old tales in which his own sagacity, uprightness, and power of repartee were unflinchingly set forth. Here his supernatural pallor and tranquil lips spoke of death and resurrection to an audience whose greatest care was to accept in a seemly and gloomy manner as many glasses of whisky as were offered to them.
His wifes eyes were hollow and glazed from want of sleep; she stood in her Sunday gown and white cap, receiving condolences without a tear, and with the invariable reply, Sure it couldnt be helped.
She hardly knew whether it were night or day, or how often the evening light in the doorway had turned to blackness, and the blackness quickened to cold blue-grey dawn since they had pulled the feather-bed from under her husband in order that he might, in accordance with ancient custom, breathe his last on the mattress. Her two married daughters dispensed the whisky and the punch at a table near the door; in the bed-room behind the kitchen the more honourable visitors sat with their hats on, and became sapiently and solemnly tipsy. The room was set out for company; a brand new counterpane covered the mountainous bed, a naked mahogany table stood in the centre, bearing a black bottle, a loaf of bread, and a two-pound lump of butter on a plate. A dazzling three-and- sixpenny hearthrug was placed on the earthen floor in front of a fire-place without a grate.
I had not the pleasure of the - the - the dead gentlemans acquaintance, said one of the visitors, a stout and greasy public- house keeper, who had driven over to the entertainment with a mutual friend, from a town twelve miles away. But I undherstand be was greatly respected in this neighbourhood, and all his family the same.
The eyes of the speaker were of a moist redness befitting the occasion; his voice had a husky roll in it, and the raw and tepid reek of bad whisky accompanied the eulogy.
As for respect, rejoined the mutual friend, addressing the hearthrug with slow determination, he had it, the Lord have mercy on him, and more than hed ax of it. Ye neednt be talking of respect.
Several of the party remarked, thats thrue, and the publican felt that he had said the right thing. Danny Quins son here rose and went round the circle with the bottle. The attention was accepted with protests, or with groans that betokened indifference to all earthly affairs. Young Quin sat down again. He was not drunk, but he had been drinking and crying on and off for three days and nights, and his big limbs felt tremulous and his brain hot.
A nice, dacent little man as ever was in the barony, said an old woman glibly; the Lord have mercy on him, tis he got the death very sudden - she crossed her self - and very quare, the Lord save us.
I undherstand, said the publican, conscious of leading the conversation with ability, that he sustained fatal injuries from a fall.
Arrah, what fatal injuries! returned the old woman with scorn; no, but to break his neck was what he done. Didnt he walk out over the brink o the big sandpit in Cashel the same as one that wouldnt have the sight, an he a fine soople man no more than seventy years? Twas like a reelin in the head the crayture got.
The tone was that of cautious supposition, and it was easy to discern the desire of contradiction.
Twas no reeling, said Tom Quin, suddenly addressing the company in a loud voice. I know well what was on him, and so do thim that was lookin at him. Twas a start he took, the same as if he seen somethin followin him. And I hope in God Ill be dead to- morrow if it isnt thrue what Im sayin, that if he didnt put his hand to the Park-na-Moddhera to sell it hed be dhrinkin his glass in the fair of Letter Kyle this day.
His auditors exclaimed, groaned, and crossed themselves. All present, except the publican, knew every detail connected with Danny Quins death, but they knew even better what was due to the dramatic moments in a story.
There was a stir in the kitchen outside, and Quins youngest daughter pushed her way into the room, crying and clapping her hands.
The priest is come - -theyre closin the coffin on him - oh, dada, dada! she wailed, and flung herself half-across the table without an effort at self-control.
The women proffered consolation, and raised her red head from where it lay beside the butter. Swaying and lolling, she was propped against their shoulders, with the light full on her convulsed face, and the whole party crushed forth into the kitchen, There was some delay, while a plate, with a heap of silver upon it, was taken from a table outside the door of the house and handed over to the priest, and many faces peered in a circle round the counting of the money. There was more than eight pounds, subscribed in silver and two half-sovereigns by the visitors to the funeral, as payment to the priest for masses for the soul of the deceased. It is an institution known as the altar, and happily combines a politeness to the dead man and his family, with a keen sense of the return that will be made in kind when it becomes the donors turn to have a funeral. The sight of the gold was balm to the dazed spirit of the Widow Quin.
Thank God, they showed that much respect for him, she said, as congratulations were passed round. Twas a great althar.
A windy sunset of January was set forth that afternoon in cold orange and green behind the bogs near Tully Lake. The new railway line ran across them, away in the north-west, and the rails gleamed along a track that seemed to end against the breast of the evening sky. Coming from the east, the line emerged from a cutting in a wooded hill, where blocks of stone, overturned trucks, and stumps of trees with twisted, agonized roots, littered the yellow sand. The wood ran to the lips of the cutting on either side, and the strong fir-trees on the height could look down the tawny slants upon their fallen comrades.
Standing below, the jaws of the ugly cleft let in the winter sunset and the twin glitter of the rails, while above, the fir-trees strove against the evening wind. It was worth remaining still to look at, in spite of the cold, and Mr. Wilfrid Glasgow, with two long account- books under his arm, and the peak of his cap over his eyes, stood for at least a minute surveying alternately his own handiwork and that of his Creator. He felt a proper admiration for both; impartially he perhaps thought that his own was more deserving of credit. At length, turning his back upon the sunset, he walked along the line to where a road crossed it. As he climbed some bars and swung himself down into the road it could be seen that he was active, with the skilled and wary activity of forty. He was tall and slight; when his hat was on, his fair thin moustache and light figure made short- sighted people place him in the early thirties.
Voices and footsteps were on the road, and groups of people straggled towards him in the twilight. They were the remnant of Danny Quins funeral cortege, and even at a distance of a hundred yards the blatant drawl of drunkenness was discernible in their conversation. He passed quickly through them, and walked fast till he was clear of the reek of whisky, tobacco, and stale turf smoke that followed them.
What swine they are, he thought, drawing a long breath. He was walking in a bend of the road where trees stood up on either side, and in the shelter the twilight seemed to fall as heavily as dew. A cold, sharp moon came forlornly from behind a wisp of cloud; the road glistened pallidly in its light, and he saw a tall man walking unsteadily towards him.
Good-evening, Quin, said Mr. Glasgow, recognizing as he neared him the young mans white face and dark beard; I was sorry to hear of your trouble. Only four days ago I was talking to your father, and I was very much shocked to hear how sudden his death was.
Quin stood still in the middle of the road, with his soft black hat pulled over his brows. He breathed hard, and Glasgow thought he was going to cry. Instead of doing so, how ever, Quin caught him by the arm.
How dar ye bring up me fathers name to me? he said, in a loud voice. If it wasnt for you and yer railway the stones wouldnt be over his head this night!
Glasgow shook his hand off.
Go home, Quin, go home, he said, not unkindly. Ill talk to you to-morrow.
What do I want o yer talk when ye have the bad luck dhrew down on us! God knows ye talked enough to me father, blasht ye! Quin here unloosed his terrified angry soul by the simple channel of bad language. Ill have satisfaction out o ye, ye English hound, he raved on, seeing that Glasgow was turning impassively away. You that laughed when I axed ye to let me father out o the bargain! Well I knew that there was none of usd do a days good afther it — he faltered and sobbed.
Glasgow knew enough of the man to take him quietly. He looked at him as he stood in the moonlight with the tears running down his hairy cheeks, and walked away. He had not gone far when the imperative sting of a bicycle bell made him move to one side with the resentment inevitably roused in the pedestrian by that sound. Looking back he saw Lady Susan French skimming past Tom Quin; a wheeled apparition that must have been as startling to him as an Apocalyptic vision. Glasgow had dined at Frenchs Court the night before, and, as he took off his cap, Lady Susan recognized him.
How-de-do? she called out, and jumped off, I must take things easy and give my husband a chance. He was pounded by that awful hill outside Letter Kyle. Would you lead my bike? Thanks, awfully.
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TORRENTS of soft grey rain were falling on Fornagh Hill. The furze-bushes were grey with it, the slatey walls gleamed darkly, the streams rushed in yellow fury over the ledges of rock. The new red coat of Dan ODriscoll the huntsman (familiarly known as Danny- O) had purple patches on it where the wet had soaked through, and, as he himself expressed it to one of his friends, every step hed take, the wather was gabblin in his boots. At the time of this remark, he was on foot in the centre of a crowd of men and boys, who had apparently risen from the hillside to point out the precise spot where the fox had gone to ground.
Tis within in the gully he is! shouted one of them. I heard the dogs yowling, and whin I seen him, there wasnt the breadth o yer nail between himself and the first o thim.
That which the speaker had referred to as a gully was a covered- in drain that carried off the waters of a small stream beneath a road and down the hillside, its lower opening being at this moment blocked by a large yellow cur, whose owner was sedulously pinching its tail as a stimulant to its reluctant advance upon the fox. A small group of riders huddled, with turned-up collars, under the lee of a high furzy fence; their muddy horses steamed, with the wet reins hanging loose on their necks. One lady and four men were all that the rocks and fences of Fornagh had left of the field. The dispensary doctors chestnut was bleeding from a cut on the fetlock, Mr. James Mahony, a hard-riding farmer, had a dark patch of mud on his shoulder, and Major Bunbury was swearing quietly to himself as he examined an over-reach that had stained his mares white pastern pink with blood. Lady Susans big bay had lost a fore shoe. Lady Susans face was an unbecoming, diffused pink; the rain beaded her dark eyebrows and ran down her well-shaped nose; her hunting cravat might as well have been a wet dishclout. Under the circumstances, perhaps, the epithets which she was applying to the weather and the country were excusable.
What can have become of Hughie? she said for the twentieth time, bending her head to let the water run out of the brim of her hat; I dont remember seeing him since that place where the cow ran after us.
Clinkin good fencer she was too, said Major Bunbury, she went two fields with us. Upon my soul, I dont know what happened to Hughie. Id quite enough to do to look out for myself.
I hope hes all right, said Lady Susan, easily, that horse wasnt going very kindly with him.
Oh, hes all right. Probably hes done for the horse, though, in this infernal country - bleedin to death under a furze-bush some where, and no wonder, when they make their fences out of razors and porridge.
Glasgow goes well, remarked Lady Susan, in a lower voice, eying Mr. Glasgow where he stood talking to a countryman. I was very glad he was there to give me a lead - you werent much good to me, Bunny dear!
Would it be putting too much delay on your ladyship to send for a tarrier? said Danny-O, the huntsman, approaching Lady Susan; theres one Dinny Hegarty that lives back on the hill here, and they say he have a grand dog.
Lady Susan listened in bewilderment to this request.
Oh, certainly. I dont know what he wants, she continued in her strident soprano, to Mr. Glasgow; I wish Hugh would come and look after his own hounds, I cant speak Irish.
I saw Captain French having rather a time, with that young horse, said Mr. Glasgow suavely, you ought to have a try at him, Lady Susan; a lady will often make a horse go when a man cant - at least, some ladies can.
Lady Susan cast her dark eyes upon him and laughed.
Oh, I say, thats what they call blarney over here, isnt it? We call it humbug in England, you know!
None the less, her opinion of Mr. Glasgow rose, and, so much is there in the manner of saying a stupid thing, he was pleased by the approval and did not notice the stupidity.
The emissary to the home of the grand dog was already on his way over the hill, speeded by injunctions from his friends to kick off the owld shoes and be hirrying. The remainder of the party applied themselves to the agreeable device of damming, at the upper end of the drain, the stream that flowed through it, with the object, as was explained, of gethering a flood, which when released, would wash the fox out before it.
At intervals a rider or two arrived, hot, wet, and full of explanations of the cause of delay, but of the new Master there was no sign. Slaney Morris was one of these later arrivals. She proffered no excuses, being probably aware that these were made for her by her mount with an eloquence beyond all gainsaying. Slaney had, in an unpretentious way, ridden from her youth up, but she rode merely as a means of transit, very much as people use omnibuses; her enthusiasms were reserved for other pursuits. She was now seated on an elderly brown mare, whose natural embonpoint was emphasized by Uncle Charles humane scruples on the subject of clipping horses. As a further tribute to his clemency, the brown mares tail had passed undocked through the changing fashions of fifteen years, and hung like a heavy black skirt, in righteous protest against the spruce abbreviations of the Frenchs Court horses.
Mr. Glasgow looked at Slaney, at her old-fashioned habit, at her saddle, horned like the moon, at the mares tufted fetlocks and dingy curb-chain, and realized that Miss Morriss most sincere admirers could not attribute to her the sacred quality of smartness. With Mr. Glasgow, as with most of his countrymen, smartness came next to cleanliness and considerably in advance of godliness. He had often ridden with Slaney, and the points he now uncomfortably noted had merely seemed an unimportant part of the background of a life whose charm depended on culture and not on fashion. He wished that he had not persuaded her to come out.
The rain had turned to a thick mist; the hounds sat on the soaked grass in solemn and disconsolate patience, looking as sapient and as silly as only hounds can; the crowd of country boys remained as indifferent to the weather as if it had been a summer breeze; and after what seemed to the shivering riders a long delay, the emissary returned, breathless, with the grand dog slinking at his bare heels. The yellow cur was withdrawn by the tail from the lower end of the drain, and the terrier was rammed in like a charge into a gun, its owner, a very respectable elderly man, lying flat on his face in the mud, with his head in the drain, bellowing encouragement. Faint squeaks from the bowels of the earth soon testified that the combat had begun, and the owner redoubled his bawls of Good boy! good lad! At this moment a shout arose from the road above that the flood was loosed, in other words, that the artificers of the dam had lost patience, and had turned the pent-up waters of the stream once more into the drain. Dinny Hegarty arose from the lower end to protest, but he was too late. There was a chorus of shouts, The dogll be shoked - The two o thimll be shoked - There isnt as much wather asd shoke them - Faith, the divil himselfd be shoked in it!
What were the experiences of the subterranean combatants none could tell; the flood burst from the lower end of the drain and ran down the field brown with mud and redolent of fox, and the pack, without a moments hesitation, pursued it hotly down the field till, amidst yells of laughter, it escaped from them into a boghole. After a brief interval, muffled hostilities recommenced in the drain; two spades and a pick appeared, as if by magic, and a shaft was sunk upon the squeaks.
Give over the spades, shouted Danny-O, as the roofing stones of the gully appeared, the hands is the besht. Hurry now, before hell go north in it from ye!
Arrah, what north! he havent room to turn in it!
Dom yer sowl, hed turn in a kayhole!
Go get a briar! roared another voice, he isnt two foot from the hole! Twisht it in his hair now - twisht it, cant ye, and dhraw him out!
The principle was that adopted by dentists in extracting the nerve from a tooth, but the briar failed of its office. The spade and pick were again resorted to, and observations were taken by a small boy.
The daag have him!
Is it by the tail?
No, but in a throttlesome way!
Come out now, interposed Danny-O, till I thry could I ketch a howlt of him.
Put on yer glove, Dan; take care would he bite ye. Sure, the gloves is no use, only silk. A fox cant bite through silk. Wrop yer hand in silk and he cant put a tooth through it! Thus, and much more from the chorus, while Dan, addressing an eye of scornful and civilized humour to Mr. Glasgow, commanded that a gowlogue and a bag should be brought to him. The young man who had been leading his horse about leaped into the saddle and undertook the errand, and the little boy who had been entrusted with the doctors wounded chestnut immediately pursued him at an emulous canter, with his bare feet thrust into the stirrup-leathers. Presently both returned at full gallop, one with a forked stick, the other with a meal sack, and then, dazzled by success, proceeded to race round the field. The hounds started once more in pursuit, and were themselves pursued by Danny-O, while the digging party broke into enthusiastic cheers.
Lady Susan was not at all amused. She felt much as a devout clergyman might feel at beholding a low travesty of the Church service, and she was almost shocked at the way in which Major Bunbury and Mr. Glasgow laughed.
Men will laugh at anything, she said, turning to Slaney, but I call this awful rot, you know. Hughie gave a lot of money for these hounds, and this sort of nonsense should not be allowed.
Im afraid youve got to learn a good many new things about hunting when you come to this part of Ireland, and to forget a good many more! said Glasgow, looking up at her with his charming smile. It was a smile that Slaney had often thought of when she lay awake at night, but in none of her reveries had she ever fancied its light being shed upon Lady Susan.
At about this moment Hugh, three miles away, was engaged in pulling down the stones of a loosely - built wall with the handle of his whip. He was riding a tall, powerful, young grey horse, and was holding him hard on the curb as he leaned over and pushed at the stones. It was obvious that horse and rider were on bad terms. Hughs face was white, and splashed with mud - mud from the hoofs of the farmers horses - behind whom he had galloped through dirty lanes; there was a long red scratch on the greys shoulder that looked as if it had been made by a spur, and Hughs new velvet cap had obviously been on the ground. The wall was reduced to two feet high before Captain French turned his horse and put him at it. He tried to pull him into a walk, and swore at him as he curveted and sidled, chafing against the curb. The horse refused, whirled round, and finally bucked over the wall, lifting his rider perceptibly in the saddle. There was but one fence now between Hugh and the road. It was a large bank with furze bushes growing on it, and a small ditch in front of it. Hugh trotted down its whole length with a sick, angry heart, looking for a low place.
My God! he said to himself, I cant ride at it. Its no good trying.
One spot seemed to him a trifle lower than the rest, and setting his teeth, he put the horse at it. The effort to command himself and not to pull the horses head as he came to the jump amounted in its way to agony; he did not know if he were glad or sorry when the grey, soured by the days misadventures, swerved front the fence and bucketed round the field, pulling hard and trying to get his head down. Hugh stopped him and dismounted He would not think of what he was going to do, but there was a hard knot in his throat as he walked the grey across the field. He tied the lash of his whip to the reins, and climbing on to the fence, led him over it. The horse followed him as lightly and quietly as a dog, and stood still to let him untie the lash. His hand shook, and he did it awkwardly, while the lump in his throat grew bigger.
The events of the morning were present with him. The jovial breakfast-table at which he had played so sorry a part; the look of the grey horse bucking as he was led round to the door; the cold, sick feeling when the hounds opened on the fox in covert; the look of Glasgows back as he and the others disappeared over the hill, leaving him stuck at the first fence, engaged in that half-hearted battle with his horse that had resulted in a fall for them both. He hated them all - Bunbury, Glasgow, the road-riding faction, who had volunteered with horrible sympathy to show him the short cuts; he almost hated his wife for the easy confidence in him that he knew he did not deserve.
Ill get over it, he said to himself, swearing furiously and futilely. After all, this is pretty nearly the first time Ive been on a horse since that smash. Damn you, you brute, keep quiet! This to the grey, who was fidgeting and pulling, with his ears pricked in expectation of anything and everything. Ive never had a right feel about a horse since that time. He pulled out his flask and took a drink - his wife had given it to him - and as he put it back he thought, with almost the bitterest pang of all, that she would never understand - that he could never tell her.
The note of the horn struck on his ear, and, looking back through the rain, he saw the hounds coming quietly along the road behind him. Lady Susan and Mr. Glasgow were riding in front of them, and he knew that the time had come when he would have to begin to tell lies. (p.42.)