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Little Foxes
by [?]

“Very good. We’ll split the difference and allow him twenty-five per cent off. Where’ll we meet to-morrow?”

“There’s some trouble among the villages down the river about their land-titles. It’s good goin’ ground there, too,” the Inspector said.

The next meet, then, was some twenty miles down the river, and the pack were not enlarged till they were fairly among the fields. Abu Hussein was there in force–four of him. Four delirious hunts of four minutes each–four hounds per fox–ended in four earths just above the river. All the village looked on.

“We forgot about the earths. The banks are riddled with ’em. This’ll defeat us,” said the Inspector.

“Wait a moment!” The Governor drew forth a sneezing hound. “I’ve just remembered I’m Governor of these parts.”

“Then turn out a black battalion to stop for us. We’ll need ’em, old man.”

The Governor straightened his back. “Give ear, O people!” he cried. “I make a new Law!”

The villagers closed in. He called:–

“Henceforward I will give one dollar to the man on whose land Abu Hussein is found. And another dollar”–he held up the coin–“to the man on whose land these dogs shall kill him. But to the man on whose land Abu Hussein shall run into a hole such as is this hole, I will give not dollars, but a most unmeasurable beating. Is it understood?”

“Our Excellency,” a man stepped forth, “on my land Abu Hussein was found this morning. Is it not so, brothers?”

None denied. The Governor tossed him over four dollars without a word.

“On my land they all went into their holes,” cried another. “Therefore I must be beaten.”

“Not so. The land is mine, and mine are the beatings.”

This second speaker thrust forward his shoulders already bared, and the villagers shouted.

“Hullo! Two men anxious to be licked? There must be some swindle about the land,” said the Governor. Then in the local vernacular: “What are your rights to the beating?”

As a river-reach changes beneath a slant of the sun, that which had been a scattered mob changed to a court of most ancient justice. The hounds tore and sobbed at Abu Hussein’s hearthstone, all unnoticed among the legs of the witnesses, and Gihon, also accustomed to laws, purred approval.

“You will not wait till the Judges come up the river to settle the dispute?” said the Governor at last.

“No!” shouted all the village save the man who had first asked to be beaten. “We will abide by Our Excellency’s decision. Let Our Excellency turn out the creatures of the Emirs who stole our land in the days of the Oppression.”

“And thou sayest?” the Governor turned to the man who had first asked to be beaten.

“I say 1 will wait till the wise Judges come down in the steamer. Then I will bring my many witnesses,” he replied.

“He is rich. He will bring many witnesses,” the village Sheikh muttered.

“No need. Thy own mouth condemns thee!” the Governor cried. “No man lawfully entitled to his land would wait one hour before entering upon it. Stand aside!” The man, fell back, and the village jeered him.

The second claimant stooped quickly beneath the lifted hunting-crop. The village rejoiced.

“Oh, Such an one; Son of such an one,” said the Governor, prompted by the Sheikh, “learn, from the day when I send the order, to block up all the holes where Abu Hussein may hide on–thy–land!”

The light flicks ended. The man stood up triumphant. By that accolade had the Supreme Government acknowledged his title before all men.

While the village praised the perspicacity of the Governor, a naked, pock-marked child strode forward to the earth, and stood on one leg, unconcerned as a young stork.

“Hal” he said, hands behind his back. “This should be blocked up with bundles of dhurra stalks–or, better, bundles of thorns.”

“Better thorns,” said the Governor. “Thick ends innermost.”

The child nodded gravely and squatted on the sand.

“An evil day for thee, Abu Hussein,” he shrilled into the mouth of the earth. “A day of obstacles to thy flagitious returns in the morning.”