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Chronicles of Clovis

Esmé
"All hunting stories are the same," said Clovis; "just as all Turf stories are the same, and
all--"
"My hunting story isn't a bit like any you've ever heard," said the Baroness. "It happened
quite a while ago, when I was about twenty-three. I wasn't living apart from my husband
then; you see, neither of us could afford to make the other a separate allowance. In spite
of everything that proverbs may say, poverty keeps together more homes than it breaks
up. But we always hunted with different packs. All this has nothing to do with the story."
"We haven't arrived at the meet yet. I suppose there was a meet," said Clovis.
"Of course there was a meet," said the Baroness; all the usual crowd were there,
especially Constance Broddle. Constance is one of those strapping florid girls that go so
well with autumn scenery or Christmas decorations in church. 'I feel a presentiment that
something dreadful is going to happen,' she said to me; 'am I looking pale?'
"She was looking about as pale as a beetroot that has suddenly heard bad news.
"'You're looking nicer than usual,' I said, 'but that's so easy for you.' Before she had got
the right bearings of this remark we had settled down to business; hounds had found a fox
lying out in some gorse-bushes."
"I knew it," said Clovis, "in every fox-hunting story that I've ever heard there's been a fox
and some gorse-bushes."
"Constance and I were well mounted," continued the Baroness serenely, "and we had no
difficulty in keeping ourselves in the first flight, though it was a fairly stiff run. Towards
the finish, however, we must have held rather too independent a line, for we lost the
hounds, and found ourselves plodding aimlessly along miles away from anywhere. It was
fairly exasperating, and my temper was beginning to let itself go by inches, when on
pushing our way through an accommodating hedge we were gladdened by the sight of
hounds in full cry in a hollow just beneath us.
"'There they go,' cried Constance, and then added in a gasp, 'In Heaven's name, what are
they hunting?'
"It was certainly no mortal fox. It stood more than twice as high, had a short, ugly head,
and an enormous thick neck.
"'It's a hyaena,' I cried; 'it must have escaped from Lord Pabham's Park.'
 
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