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David Garnett "Lady info Box"

«šŚŮŁ ‚Ż ŮžÓśŚÚŚ ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ ÔūÓųŤÚŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů: David Garnett "Lady info Box".

Lady info Box

Wonderful or supernatural events†are not so uncommon, rather they are irregular in their†incidence. Thus there may be†not one marvel to speak of in a century, and then often enough comes a plentiful crop of them; monsters of†all†sorts†swarm†suddenly†upon the earth,†comets blaze in†the†sky, eclipses†frighten nature, meteors fall†in rain, while†mermaids and sirens beguile, and sea-serpents engulf every passing ship, and terrible cataclysms beset humanity.

But†the†strange†event†which†I†shall†here†relate†came†alone, unsupported, without companions†into†a hostile world, and†for†that†very reason claimed†little of the general†attention of mankind.†For the sudden changing of†Mrs. Tebrick†into a vixen is†an established fact which we may attempt to account for as we will. Certainly it is in the explanation of the fact, and the reconciling†of it with our general notions that we shall find most difficulty, and†not†in accepting for†true a†story which is so fully proved, and that not†by one†witness but by†a dozen, all respectable,†and with no possibility of collusion between them.

But here I will†confine myself to an†exact narrative of the event and all†that followed†on†it. Yet I would not†dissuade any of my readers from attempting an explanation of this seeming miracle†because up†till now none has been found which is†entirely satisfactory. What adds to†the difficulty to†my†mind†is that†the metamorphosis occurred†when†Mrs. Tebrick was†a full-grown woman, and that it happened suddenly in so short a space of time. The†sprouting of†a tail, the gradual extension of hair all over†the body, the slow change of the whole anatomy by a process of growth, though it would have†been monstrous, would not have†been so difficult†to reconcile to our ordinary conceptions, particularly had it happened in a young child.

But here†we†have†something very different.†A grown†lady is changed straightway†into a†fox. There is no explaining†that†away by any natural philosophy. The materialism of our age will not help us here. It is indeed a miracle;†something†from outside our†world†altogether, an event†which we would willingly accept if we were to meet it invested with†the authority of Divine†Revelation†in†the scriptures, but which†we†are†not prepared†to encounter†almost†in our†time,†happening†in†Oxford†shire†amongst†our neighbours.

The only things which go†any way towards an explanation of it†are but guesswork,†and I give them more because I†would not conceal anything, than because I think they are of any worth. Mrs. Tebrick's maiden name was certainly†Fox,†and it is possible that such a miracle happening be-fore, the family may have gained their name as a sobriquel on that account. They were an†ancient†family, and have had their seat at Tangley Hall time†out of mind. It†is also true that†there†was†a half-tame fox once upon a time chained up at Tangley Hall in the inner yard, and†I have heard many speculative wiseacres in the public-houses†turn that to great†account ó†though they could not†but admit that†"there†was never†one there in Miss Silvia's time." At first†I†was†inclined to think that Silvia Fox, having once hunted†when she was a child of ten and†having been blooded, might furnish more of an explanation. It seems†she took great fright or disgust at it, and vomited after it was done. But now I do not see that†it†has much bearing†on the miracle itself, even though†we know that after that she always spoke of the "poor foxes" when a hunt was stirring and never rode to†hounds till after her marriage when her husband persuaded her to it.

She was married in the year 1879 to†Mr. Richard Tebrick, after a short courtship,†and†went to live after their honeymoon at Rylands, near Stokoe, Oxon. One†point indeed†I have not†been able to ascertain and that is†how they first became acquainted. Tangley Hall is over thirty miles from Stokoe, and is extremely remote.†Indeed to this day there is no†proper road to it, which is all the more remarkable†as it is†the†principal,†and indeed†the only, manor house for several miles round.

Whether it was from a chance meeting on the roads, or less romantic but more†probable, by Mr. Tebrick becoming†acquainted with†her uncle, a minor canon†at Oxford, and thence†being invited by him to visit Tangley Hall, it is impossible to†say. But however they became acquainted the marriage was a very happy one. The bride was in her twenty-third year. She was small, with remarkably small hands†and feet. It is perhaps worth noting†that there was nothing at all foxy or vixenish in her appearance. On the†contrary, she was a†more than ordinarily beautiful†and agreeable†woman. Her eyes were†of a clear hazel but exceptionally brilliant, her hair dark, with a†shade of red in†it, her skin†brownish, with a†few†dark freckles and little†moles. In manner she was reserved almost to shyness, but perfectly self-possessed, and perfectly well-bred.

She had been strictly brought†up†by a†woman of excellent, principles and considerable attainments, who died a year or so before the marriage. And owing to the circumstance that her mother had been dead many years, and†her father bedridden, and not altogether rational for a†little while before his death, they had†few visitors but†her†uncle.†He often stopped with them a month†or†two†at a stretch,†particularly†in†winter, as†he was†fond of shooting snipe, which†arc plentiful in the valley there. That†she did†not grow†up a country hoyden†is to†be explained†by†the†strictness†of†her governess†and the†influence of her†uncle. But perhaps living in so wild A place gave her some disposition to wildness, even in spite of†her religious upbringing.†Her old†nurse said: "Miss Silvia was always a little†wild†at heart,'' though if this was true it was never seen by anyone else except her husband.

On†one†of†the first days of the†year 1880, in†the early afternoon, husband and†wife†went for a†walk in the copse on†the little†hill†above Rylands.†They were still at this†time†like†lovers in their behaviour and were always†together. While†they†were walking they†heard the†hounds and later the huntsman's horn†in the distance. Mr. Tebrick had persuaded her to hunt†on Boxing Day, but with great difficulty, and she†had not†enjoyed it (though of hacking she was fond enough).

Hearing the†hunt,†Mr. Tebrick quickened his†pace†so as to reach the edge of†the copse, where they might†get a good view†of the hounds if they came that way. His wife hung back, and he, holding her hand, began almost to drag her. Before they gained the edge of the copse she suddenly snatched her hand away from his very violently and cried out, so that he instantly turned his head.

Where his wife had†been the moment before was a small†fox, of a†very bright red.

It looked†at him very beseechingly, advanced towards him a pace or†two,†and he saw†at†once†that his†wife was†looking at him†from the animal's eyes.†You may well think if†he were aghast: and so maybe†was his lady†at finding herself†in that†shape,†so†they did nothing†for†nearly half-an-hour but stare at each other, he bewildered, she asking him with her eyes†as if indeed she spoke to him: "What am I now become? Have pity on me, husband, have pity on me for I am your wife."

So†that with his†gazing on her and knowing her well, even. in such†a shape,†yet asking†himself†at†every†moment:†"Can†it be she?†Am†I not dreaming?" and her†beseeching and lastly fawning on him and seeming to tell him that it was†she indeed, they†came at last together and†he took her in his†arms. She lay very dose†to him, nestling under his†coat†and†fell to licking his face, but never taking her eyes from his.

The husband†alt this†while kept†turning the†thing†in†his head and gazing†on her,†but he could make no sense of what had†happened, but†only comforted himself with the hope†that this was†but a momentary†change, and that presently she would turn†back again†into the†wife that was one flesh with him.

One fancy that came†to†him,†because he was so much more like a lover than a husband, was that†it†was his†fault, and†this because if†anything dreadful happened he could never blame her but himself for it. So they passed a good while, till at last†the†tears†welled up in the poor†fox's†eyes and†she began weeping†(but quite†in†silence),†and she trembled too as if she were in a fever. At this he could not contain his own tears, but sat down on the ground and sobbed for a great while,†but between his sobs kissing her quite as if she had been a woman, and not caring in his grief that he was kissing a fox on the muzzle.

They sat†thus†till it†was getting†near†dusk,†when†he recollected himself,†and (he next†thing was†that he†must somehow hide her,†and then bring her home.

He waited till it†was quite†dark that†he†might the better bring her into her own house without being seen, and†buttoned her inside his topcoat, nay, even in†his passion†tearing open his waistcoat and his shirt that she might like†the†closer†to†his heart. For†when†we are overcome with†the greatest sorrow we act not like men or women but like children whose comfort in all their troubles is to press themselves†against their mother's breast, or if she be not there to hold each other light in one another's arms.

When it was dark he brought her in with infinite†precautions, yet†not without†the†dogs†scenting her†after which nothing could†moderate†their clamour.

Having got her into the house, the next thing he thought of was to hide her from the†servants. He carried her to the bedroom in his arms†and†then went downstairs again.

Mr. Tebrick had†three†servants†living†in the house, the†cook,†the parlourmaid, and†an old woman†who had been his wife's nurse. Besides these women there†was a groom or a gardener†(whichever†you choose to call him), who was a single man and so lived out, lodging with a labouring family about half a mile away.

Mr. Tebrick going downstairs pitched upon the parlourmaid. "Janet," says he, "Mrs. Tebrick†and I have had some bad news, and Mrs. Tebrick was called away†instantly to London and left this afternoon,†and I am†staying tonight to put our affairs†in†order.†We are†shutting†up the house, and†I must give you and†Mrs. Brant a month's†wages and ask you†to leave†tomorrow†morning at seven o'clock. We shall probably go away to†the Continent, and†I†do†not know when we†shall come†back. Please†tell†the others, and now get me my tea and bring it into my study on a tray." Janet†said†nothing†for she†was†a†shy†girl,†particularly†before gentlemen, but when she entered the kitchen Mr. Tebrick heard a sudden burst of conversation with many exclamations from the cook.

When she came back with his tea, Mr. Tebrick said: "I shall not require you upstairs. Pack your†own things and tell†James†to†have the waggonette ready for you by seven o'clock to-morrow morning to take you to the station. I am busy now, but I will see you again before you go."

When†she†had gone Mr. Tebrick†took the tray upstairs. For†the first moment he thought the room was empty, and†his vixen†got away, for he could see no sign of her anywhere. But after a moment he saw something stirring in a†corner†of†the†room,†and†then behold! she†came†forth†dragging†her dressing-gown, into which she had somehow struggled.

This†must surely have been†a comical sight,†but poor Mr. Tebrick was altogether too distressed†then or at†any time afterwards to divert himself at such ludicrous scenes. He only called to her softly: "Silvia ó Silvia. What do you do there?" And then in a†moment saw for†himself what†she would be†at, and began†once†more†to blame himself heartily ó because†he had not guessed that†his wife would not like to go naked, no notwithstanding the shape she was in. Nothing would satisfy him then†till†he†had clothed her†suitably,†bringing†her†dresses from†the wardrobe for†her to choose. But as might†have been expected, they were too big for her now, but at last he picked out a little dressing-jacket that she was†fond of†wearing sometimes in the†mornings.†It was made of a flowered silk, trimmed with lace, and the†sleeves short enough to sit†very well†on her now. White he†tied†the†ribands his poor lady†thanked him with gentle looks†and not without some modesty and confusion. He†propped†her up in an armchair with some cushions, and they took tea together, she very delicately drinking from a saucer and taking bread and butter†from his hands. All this showed†him, or so he thought, that his wife was still herself; there was so little†wildness†in†her†demeanour†and†so†much†delicacy†and†decency, especially in her not wishing to run naked, that he was very much comforted, and began to fancy they could be happy enough if they could escape the world and live always alone.

From†this†too sanguine dream he was†aroused by†hearing the gardener speaking to the dogs, trying to quiet them, for ever since he had†come with his†vixen they had been whining, barking and†growling, and†all as he knew because there was a fox within doors and they would kill it He started up now, calling to†the gardener that he would come down†to the dogs†himself to quiet them, and bade the man go indoors again and leave it†to him. All this he†said in a dry, compelling kind of voice which made the fellow†do as he was†bid, though it was†against his will,†for he†was curious. Mr.†Tebrick went†downstairs, and taking†his†gun†from the†rack loaded†it†and†went†out into the yard.†Now there†were†two dogs, one†a handsome Irish setter that was his wife's†dog (she had brought†it with her from, Tangley Hall on her marriage); the other was an old fox terrier called Nelly that he had had ten years or more.

When†he came†out into†the yard both†dogs saluted him by barking and whining twice†as much as they did before, the setter jumping up and down at the end of his chain in a frenzy, and Nelly shivering, wagging her tail, and looking first†at†her master†and†then at†the house door, where she could smell the fox right enough.

There†was†a bright†moon, so that†Mr.†Tebrick could see the dogs as clearly as could†be. First†he shot his wife's setter dead, and then looked about†him for Nelly to†give†her the other barrel,†but†he could†see her nowhere. The bitch†was clean gone, till, looking to see how she had†broken her chain, he found her lying†hid in the back of her kennel. But that trick did not save her, for Mr. Tebrick, after trying to pull her out by her chain and finding it useless ó she would not come,ó thrust the muzzle of his†gun†into†the†kennel,†pressed†it†into her†body†and†so†shot hen Afterwards, striking†a match,†he†looked in at her to make certain she was dead. Then, leaving†the†dogs as they†were,†chained up, Mr. Tebrick†went indoors†again and found the gardener, who had not yet gone home, gave him a month's wages in lieu of notice and told him he had a job for him yet ó to bury the two dogs and that he should do it that same night.

But by all this going†on with so much strangeness and authority on his part, as it†seemed to†them,†the servants†were much troubled. Hearing the shots while he was out in the yard his wife's old nurse, or Nanny, ran up to the bedroom†though she had no business there,†and so opening†the door saw the poor fox dressed in my lady's little†Jacket lying back in the cushions, and in such a reverie of woe that she heard nothing.

Old†Nanny, though she was†not expecting to find†her†mistress there, having†been†told†that she†was gone†that afternoon to†London,†knew her instantly, and cried out: "Oh, my poor precious I Oh, poor Miss Silvia I What dreadful change†is this?" Then, seeing her mistress start and look at her, she cried out: "But†never fear, my†darling,†it will all†come right, your old Nanny knows you, it will all come right in the end."

But though she said this she did not care†to look†again, and kept her eyes turned away so as not to meet the foxy slit†ones of her†mistress, for that was too†much†for†her. So she hurried†out soon, fearing to be†found there by Mr.†Tebrick, and†who†knows, perhaps shot,†like†the†dogs,†for knowing the secret.

Mr.†Tebrick†had all this time gone about paying off his†servants and shooting his dogs as if†he were in a dream. Now he†fortified†himself with two or three glasses of strong whisky and went to bed, taking his vixen into his arms, where he slept soundly. Whether she did†or†not is more than I or anybody else can say.

In the morning when he woke up they had the place to themselves, for on his instructions the servants†had†all left first thing: Janet and the cook to Oxford, where they would try and find new places, and Nanny going back to the cottage near Tangley, where her son lived, who was the pigman there. So with that morning there began what was now to be their ordinary life together. He would†get up when it†was broad day, and first thing light the fire downstairs and cook the breakfast, then brush his wife, sponge her with a damp sponge, then brush her again, in†all this using scent very freely to hide somewhat her rank odour. When she was dressed he carried her downstairs and†they had their†breakfast together, she†sitting up to†table with him, drinking her saucer of tea, and taking her†food from his fingers, or at any rate being fed by him. She was still fond of the same food that she had been used to before her transformation,†a lightly boiled egg or†slice of ham, a piece of buttered†toast or two, with a little quince and apple jam. While I am on the subject of her food, I should say that reading in the encyclopedia he†found that†foxes on the†Continent are inordinately fond of grapes, and that during the autumn season they abandon their ordinary diet for them, and then grow exceedingly fat and lose their offensive odour.

This appetite for grapes is so well confirmed by Aesop, and by passages in the Scriptures, that it is strange Mr. Tebrick should†not have known it. After reading†this account he wrote to London for a basket of†grapes to be posted to him twice a week and was rejoiced to†find that the account in the encyclopedia was true in the most important†of these particulars. His vixen relished†them exceedingly and†seemed†never to tire†of them, so†that†he increased his order first from one pound to three pounds and†afterwards†to five.†Her odour abated so much by this means that he came not†to notice it at all except sometimes in the mornings before her toilet.

What helped most to make living†with her bearable for him was that she understood him perfectly, ó yes, every word he said, and though she was numb she expressed herself very fluently by looks†and signs though never by the voice.

Thus he frequently conversed with her, telling her all his thoughts and hiding nothing from her, and this the more readily because he was very quick to catch her meaning and her answers. "Puss, Puss," he would say to her,†for calling†her†that†had†been a habit with him always. "Sweet Puss, some men would pity me living alone here with†you after what has happened, but I would†not change†places while you were living†with any man for the whole world. Though you are†a fox I would rather live with you than any woman. I†swear I would, and†that†too if you were changed to anything." But then,†catching her grave look, he would say: "Do†you think I Jest on these things, my dear? I do not I swear†to you, my darling, that all my life I will be true†to you, will be faithful, will respect and reverence†you†who are my wife. And†I wilt do that†not because of any hope, that God in His mercy†will see fit†to restore your shape, but solely because I love you. However you may be changed, my love is not." Then†anyone†seeing them would have sworn†that†they†were lovers, so passionately did each look on the other.

Often†he would†swear to her that the devil might have power†to†work some miracles,†but that he would find it†beyond him to change his love for her.

These passionate speeches, however they†might have struck†his wife in an ordinary way, now seemed to be†her chief comfort. She would come to him, put her paw in his hand and look at him with sparkling eyes shining with joy and gratitude, would pant with eagerness, jump at him and lick his face. Now†he had many little†things which†busied him in†the house†ó getting his meals, setting the room straight, making†the bed†and so forth. When he was doing†this housework†it was comical to watch†his vixen. Often she†was as it were beside herself with vexation†and distress to see him in his†clumsy way†doing what she could have done so much better had she†been able. Then, forgetful of the decency and the decorum which she had†at first imposed†upon†herself†never†to†run†upon†all†fours,†she†followed him everywhere, and if he did one thing wrong she stopped him and showed him the way of it When he had forgot the hour for his meal†she would†come†and tug his†sleeve†and†tell him as†if she†spoke:†"Husband, are we†to have†no luncheon today?"

This womanliness in her never failed†to delight him, for it showed she was still his wife, buried as it were†in the carcase of a beast but†with a woman's soul. This†encouraged†him so†much†that he†debated†with himself whether he should not read aloud†to†her, as he often had done formerly. At last,†since†he†could find no reason against it, he went to the†shelf and fetched down†a†volume of the "History†of†Clarissa Harlowe," which he had begun to read aloud to her a few weeks before. He opened the volume where he had left†off, with†Lovelace's letter after he had spent†the night waiting fruitlessly in the copse.
" Good God!
What it now to become of me?
My feet benumbed by midnight wanderings through the heaviest†dens that ever†fell; my wig and†my linen dripping with†the hoarfrost dissolving†?? them!
Day†but just breaking†.†. ." etc.
Finis

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