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Little Foxes
by [?]

Lights burned on her till late, dully reflected in the river that tugged at her mooring-ropes. The Governor read, not for the first time, the administration reports of one John Jorrocks, M.F.H.

“We shall need,” he said suddenly to his Inspector, “about ten couple. I’ll get ’em when I go home. You’ll be Whip, Baker?”

The Inspector, who was not yet twenty-five, signified his assent in the usual manner, while Abu Hussein barked at the vast desert moon.

“Ha!” said the Governor, coming out in his pyjamas, “we’ll be giving you capivi in another three months, my friend.”

* * * * *

It was four, as a matter of fact, ere a steamer with a melodious bargeful of hounds anchored at that landing. The Inspector leaped down among them, and the homesick wanderers received him as a brother.

“Everybody fed ’em everything on board ship, but they’re real dainty hounds at bottom,” the Governor explained. “That’s Royal you’ve got hold of–the pick of the bunch–and the bitch that’s got, hold of you–she’s a little excited–is May Queen. Merriman, out of Cottesmore Maudlin, you know.”

“I know. ‘Grand old betch with the tan eyebrows,”‘ the Inspector cooed. “Oh, Ben! I shall take an interest in life now. Hark to ’em! O hark!”

Abu Hussein, under the high bank, went about his night’s work. An eddy carried his scent to the barge, and three villages heard the crash of music that followed. Even then Abu Hussein did not know better than to bark in reply.

“Well, what about my Province?” the Governor asked.

“Not so bad,” the Inspector answered, with Royal’s head between his knees. “Of course, all the villages want remission of taxes, but, as far as I can see, the whole country’s stinkin’ with foxes. Our trouble will be choppin’ ’em in cover. I’ve got a list of the only villages entitled to any remission. What d’you call this flat-sided, blue-mottled beast with the jowl?”

“Beagle-boy. I have my doubts about him. Do you think we can get two days a week?”

“Easy; and as many byes as you please. The Sheikh of this village here tells me that his barley has failed, and he wants a fifty per cent remission.”

“We’ll begin with him to-morrow, and look at his crops as we go. Nothing like personal supervision,” said the Governor.

They began at sunrise. The pack flew off the barge in every direction, and, after gambols, dug like terriers at Abu Hussein’s many earths. Then they drank themselves pot-bellied on Gihon water while the Governor and the Inspector chastised them with whips. Scorpions were added; for May Queen nosed one, and was removed to the barge lamenting. Mystery (a puppy, alas!) met a snake, and the blue-mottled Beagle-boy (never a dainty hound) ate that which he should have passed by. Only Royal, of the Belvoir tan head and the sad, discerning eyes, made any attempt to uphold the honour of England before the watching village.

“You can’t expect everything,” said the Governor after breakfast.

“We got it, though–everything except foxes. Have you seen May Queen’s nose?” said the Inspector.

“And Mystery’s dead. We’ll keep ’em coupled next time till we get well in among the crops. I say, what a babbling body-snatcher that Beagle-boy is! Ought to be drowned!”

“They bury people so damn casual hereabouts. Give him another chance,” the Inspector pleaded, not knowing that he should live to repent most bitterly.

“Talkin’ of chances,” said the Governor, “this Sheikh lies about his barley bein’ a failure. If it’s high enough to hide a hound at this time of year, it’s all right. And he wants a fifty per cent remission, you said?”

“You didn’t go on past the melon patch where I tried to turn Wanderer. It’s all burned up from there on to the desert. His other water-wheel has broken down, too,” the Inspector replied.