Even as an accomplished swordsman may be wounded by the unexpectedness of the onslaught of some ignorant youngster who hardly knows a sword’s pommel from its point, so this murderously inclined vixen was bowled over by the astounding attack of Master Black-and-Gray. The slope was very steep and the pup’s spring a bolt from the blue. The vixen slipped, lost her footing, and went slithering down the dry grass from the ledge, snapping at the air as she slid, with bites, any one of which would easily have closed Black-and-Gray’s career if they had reached him. But the puppy was quite powerless to put on the brake, so to say, and his progress down the slope was therefore far more rapid than that of the vixen. The breath was entirely knocked out of Black-and-Gray when he finally was brought up, all standing, by a sharp little rise of ground alongside the gap past which one saw across the Sussex weald from Desdemona’s cave. Here it seemed he must pay the ultimate penalty of his unheard-of temerity, and be despatched by the now thoroughly angered vixen at her leisure.
But in that same moment a number of other things happened. In the first place, having reached it from the far side of the ridge, Desdemona appeared beside the mouth of her cave, dangling a young rabbit from her jaws. In the second place, Finn appeared, climbing from the landward side, in the gap beside which the puppy came to the end of its long tumbling flight. Midway between the gap and the cave, the startled vixen crouched on the slope, turning her head from the terrible vision of Finn, upward to the scarcely less alarming vision of Desdemona, now sniffing in the fact of her little daughter’s murder.
The position was a parlous one for the vixen, and as she pulled herself together for flight along the side of the slope she doubtless regretted bitterly the curiosity which had impelled her to visit the den of her departed relative.
The vixen leaped warily and doubled with real agility. But Finn was easily her master in the arts of the chase, and his strength was ten times greater than that of any fox in Sussex. The vixen was still well within sight from Desdemona’s cave when her time came. She leaped and snapped, and faced overwhelming odds without wavering, but her race was run when the wolfhound’s great weight bore her to the earth and his massive jaw closed about her ruff as a vise grips wood.
And in the moment of the vixen’s death, just as Master Black-and-Gray so far recovered his breath and his senses as to sit up and take stock of himself; a pony’s nose appeared in the gap alongside him and introduced another new experience into this adventurous puppy’s life. The pony must have appeared to his gaze very much as an elephant would appear to a child upon first view. But Black-and-Gray growled threateningly, though he did take two or three backward steps. On the pony’s back sat Betty Murdoch, who now slid to the ground and knelt down beside the pup.