I'm currently writing a sequel to The Long Acre. This is a story within a story from early work on Book 2. A taster, but before it gets re-written in the voice of Eva, the old travelling woman.
It's been amazing getting so much positive reader feedback from Book 1. Thank you! Please keep in touch, it's a lonely old world at the moment.
An original story, by Rachel Francis, all rights reserved.
“There was once a pair of foxes, a handsome young pair of foxes and they dug their den deep under the bank of an ancient hedge, where the hunters couldn’t dig, in between the roots of ancient hazel and oak and thorn and spindle.
Smart young foxes they were and plagued by the local pack of hounds. So, they devised a plan. They decided that whenever they were pursued by hounds, they would run around the den in a big circle, a mile wide and a mile long, passing close to the river, but not close to their den. When they reached the river, they would set a trail in the wrong direction, jump in the river and swim back. In this way, the scent trail would confuse the pack of hounds and the foxes could return home.
So, this was the plan and sure enough, every time hounds picked up the scent of one or other of the foxes, they would run in a big circle around the den until they came to the river, lay a false trail, double back along the river until the hunt had passed and then run for the safety of the den under the bank.
The people who followed the hunt said to the huntsman, we should hunt somewhere else, where there is better sport. But the huntsman was a shrewd fellow and he knew that the only way to catch the fox was to learn its secret route. So, the huntsman watched the two foxes every day until he had learned their trick.
A few months later, the huntsman took the hunt back to the territory of the pair of young foxes and hounds picked up the fresh scent of a young dog fox and followed it to the river. But this time, when they got to the river, the huntsman called them off the scent and led the pack back along the river where they picked up fresh scent, chased the young dog fox, caught and swiftly killed it.
The young vixen mourned the loss of her partner, but she was no fool and tucked away inside the den she still had everything to live for … three small bundles of delicious warmth and foxy fur and small paws and bright black eyes and pink hungry mouths … three cubs to raise and feed and keep from harm.
Now the huntsman is cunning, his job depends upon it; the fox is cunning, his life depends upon it; but the vixen with cubs is the most cunning of all, her senses sharpened by the need to keep her cubs safe. To fool the huntsman, she knew that she must change the route, make it less predictable, more complex, impossible to follow. And so, she watched the grazing animals who moved with the sun and the weasel who slipped from shadow to shadow and the swallow who flew with a tiny compass in her heart and from all of these creatures she learned a pattern across the countryside, one thousand paths that wound between the den and the hunting ground, one thousand ways home. Each path she taught to her cubs, she showed them how to jump onto walls and run the length of them to break the scent, to squeeze through thorn, wade the marsh, to disappear into scented fields, to cross the railway ahead of the train, the road ahead of the lorry, the rivers and streams at a hundred different places, to circle, to lay false trails, to run fast, to crawl low on the belly, to watch, to wait, to read the mind of the hunter. With so many tricks in her family armoury, she knew that now they could outwit the huntsman.
But the huntsman didn’t give up. He went to the wealthy hunt followers and he said, give me your money and we will catch these foxes. The followers gave generously, for there was promise of such sport and the huntsman took the money and went to find the gypsy, because only the gypsy was as cunning as the vixen. The huntsman said to the gypsy, watch that vixen and her cubs, learn the routes, draw me a perfect map and you shall have all this money. And he held all the money up for the gypsy to see and the gypsy’s eyes gleamed.
So, the gypsy gathered her husband bold and her three children lively and the white-haired granny and many boisterous uncles and all and said, we need to learn the many paths of the fox. Days passed and then weeks and between them, after many weeks, the gypsies learned every path that led back to the vixen’s den under the bank, beneath the hedge. They learned to follow the sun and slip from shadow to shadow and to carry a compass in their hearts, they learned every possible trick and diversion, one thousand different ways.
And after three months, the huntsman met again with the gypsy. He asked her for the map and held up the money, but the gypsy shook her head and said slyly that the route was too complex, they had not been able to write it down. Then she returned to her family.
Her family said "where is the money?" They had worked hard for that money, they were not happy, so the gypsy threaded together all that they had learned into a story and told it to her family.
At the end of the story, they finally saw what she had seen … that it fitted the story of the land which they travelled, fitted like a glove. They realised at last that the work they had done was worth far more than the huntsman’s money.
After this, they told the same story around the fire, so that it would be passed from one generation to the next.
The story became known as ...
You'll have to wait for the sequel to find out more. I love this video, which inspired the story.
Written by Rachel. Copyright Feb 2021.
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