They found a fox after some delay in a copse on the side of a hill, and the run that followed scattered even Anne’s sedateness to the winds. Something of youth, something of girlishness, yet dwelt within her and bounded to the surface in response to the wild excitement of the chase.
The grey went like the wind. He and the black mare that Nap Errol rode led the field, a distinction that Anne had never sought before, and which she did not greatly appreciate on this occasion. For when they killed in a chalky hollow, after half-an-hour’s furious galloping across country with scarcely a check, she dragged her animal round with a white, set face and forced him from the scene.
Nap followed her after a little and found her fumbling at a gate into a wood.
“I’ve secured the brush for you,” he began. Then, seeing her face, “What is it? You look sick.”
“I feel sick,” Anne said shakily.
He opened the gate for her, and followed her through. They found themselves alone, separated from the rest of the hunt by a thick belt of trees.
“Do you mean to say you have never seen a kill before?” he said.
“Never at close quarters,” murmured Anne, with a shudder.
He rode for a little in silence. At length, “I’m sorry you didn’t like being in at the death,” he said. “I thought you would be pleased.”
“Pleased!” she said, and shuddered again.
“Personally,” said Nap, “I enjoy a kill.”
Anne’s face expressed horror.
“Yes,” he said recklessly, “I am like that. I hunt to kill. It is my nature.” A red gleam shone suddenly in his fiery eyes. He looked at her aggressively. “What do you hunt for anyway?” he demanded.
“I don’t think I shall hunt any more,” she said.
“Oh, nonsense, Lady Carfax! That’s being ultrasqueamish,” he protested. “You mustn’t, you know. It’s bad for you.”
“I can’t help it,” she said. “I never realised before how cruel it is.”
“Of course it’s cruel,” said Nap. “But then so is everything, so is life. Yet you’ve got to live. We were created to prey on each other.”
“No, no!” she said quickly, for his words hurt her inexplicably. “I take the higher view.”
“I beg your pardon,” said Nap, in the tone of one refusing a discussion.
She turned to him impulsively. “Surely you do too!” she said, and there was even a note of pleading in her voice.
Nap’s brows met suddenly. He turned his eyes away. “I am nothing but an animal,” he told her rather brutally. “There is nothing spiritual about me. I live for what I can get. When I get the chance I gorge. If I have a soul at all, it is so rudimentary as to be unworthy of mention.”
In the silence that followed he looked at her again with grim comprehension. “P’r’aps you don’t care for animals,” he suggested cynically. “To change the subject, do you know we are leaving the hunt behind?”