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The Stalled Ox
THEOPHIL ESHLEY was an artist by profession, a cattle painter by force of
environment. It is not to be supposed that he lived on a ranche or a dairy farm, in an
atmosphere pervaded with horn and hoof, milking-stool, and branding-iron. His home
was in a park-like, villa- dotted district that only just escaped the reproach of being
suburban. On one side of his garden there abutted a small, picturesque meadow, in which
an enterprising neighbour pastured some small picturesque cows of the Channel Island
persuasion. At noonday in summertime the cows stood knee-deep in tall meadow-grass
under the shade of a group of walnut trees, with the sunlight falling in dappled patches on
their mouse-sleek coats. Eshley had conceived and executed a dainty picture of two
reposeful milch-cows in a setting of walnut tree and meadow-grass and filtered sunbeam,
and the Royal Academy had duly exposed the same on the walls of its Summer
Exhibition. The Royal Academy encourages orderly, methodical habits in its children.
Eshley had painted a successful and acceptable picture of cattle drowsing picturesquely
under walnut trees, and as he had begun, so, of necessity, he went on. His "Noontide
Peace," a study of two dun cows under a walnut tree, was followed by "A Mid-day
Sanctuary," a study of a walnut tree, with two dun cows under it. In due succession there
came "Where the Gad- Flies Cease from Troubling," "The Haven of the Herd," and "A-
dream in Dairyland," studies of walnut trees and dun cows. His two attempts to break
away from his own tradition were signal failures: "Turtle Doves alarmed by Sparrow-
hawk" and "Wolves on the Roman Campagna" came back to his studio in the guise of
abominable heresies, and Eshley climbed back into grace and the public gaze with "A
Shaded Nook where Drowsy Milkers Dream."
On a fine afternoon in late autumn he was putting some finishing touches to a study of
meadow weeds when his neighbour, Adela Pingsford, assailed the outer door of his
studio with loud peremptory knockings.
"There is an ox in my garden," she announced, in explanation of the tempestuous
"An ox," said Eshley blankly, and rather fatuously; "what kind of ox?"
"Oh, I don't know what kind," snapped the lady. "A common or garden ox, to use the
slang expression. It is the garden part of it that I object to. My garden has just been put
straight for the winter, and an ox roaming about in it won't improve matters. Besides,
there are the chrysanthemums just coming into flower."
"How did it get into the garden?" asked Eshley.
"I imagine it came in by the gate," said the lady impatiently; "it couldn't have climbed the
walls, and I don't suppose anyone dropped it from an aeroplane as a Bovril