And meanwhile there was Chris; and at the thought the father lifted his eyes to the gallery, and saw the faint outline of his son’s brown head against the whitewash.
A FORETASTE OF PEACE
It was not until the party was riding home the next day that Sir Nicholas Maxwell and his wife were informed of Chris’ decision.
* * * * *
They had had a fair day’s sport in the two estates that marched with one another between Overfield and Great Keynes, and about fifteen stags had been killed as well as a quantity of smaller game.
Ralph had ridden out after the party had left, and had found Sir Nicholas at the close of the afternoon just as the last drive was about to take place; and had stepped into his shelter to watch the finish. It was a still, hot afternoon, and the air over the open space between the copse in which they stood and the dense forest eighty yards away danced in the heat.
Ralph nodded to his brother-in-law, who was flushed and sunburnt, and then stood behind, running his eyes up and down that sturdy figure with the tightly-gaitered legs set well apart and the little feathered cap that moved this way and that as the sportsman peered through the branches before him. Once he turned fierce eyes backwards at the whine of one of the hounds, and then again thrust his hot dripping face into the greenery.
Then very far away came a shout, and a chorus of taps and cries followed it, sounding from a couple of miles away as the beaters after sweeping a wide circle entered the thick undergrowth on the opposite side of the wood. Sir Nicholas’ legs trembled, and he shifted his position a little, half lifting his strong spliced hunting bow as he did so.
For a few minutes there was silence about them except for the distant cries, and once for the stamp of a horse behind them. Then Sir Nicholas made a quick movement, and dropped his hands again; a single rabbit had cantered out from the growth opposite, and sat up with cocked ears staring straight at the deadly shelter. Then another followed; and again in a sudden panic the two little furry bodies whisked back into cover.