Too Long; Didn't Read
In the meantime the hunting season was going on in the Brake country with chequered success. There had arisen the great Trumpeton Wood question, about which the sporting world was doomed to hear so much for the next twelve months,—and Lord Chiltern was in an unhappy state of mind. Trumpeton Wood belonged to that old friend of ours, the Duke of Omnium, who had now almost fallen into second childhood. It was quite out of the question that the Duke should himself interfere in such a matter, or know anything about it; but Lord Chiltern, with headstrong resolution, had persisted in writing to the Duke himself. Foxes had always hitherto been preserved in Trumpeton Wood, and the earths had always been stopped on receipt of due notice by the keepers. During the cubbing season there had arisen quarrels. The keepers complained that no effort was made to kill the foxes. Lord Chiltern swore that the earths were not stopped. Then there came tidings of a terrible calamity. A dying fox, with a trap to its pad, was found in the outskirts of the Wood; and Lord Chiltern wrote to the Duke. He drew the Wood in regular course before any answer could be received,—and three of his hounds picked up poison, and died beneath his eyes. He wrote to the Duke again,—a cutting letter; and then came from the Duke's man of business, Mr. Fothergill, a very short reply, which Lord Chiltern regarded as an insult. Hitherto the affair had not got into the sporting papers, and was simply a matter of angry discussion at every meet in the neighbouring counties. Lord Chiltern was very full of wrath, and always looked as though he desired to avenge those poor hounds on the Duke and all belonging to him. To a Master of Hounds the poisoning of one of his pack is murder of the deepest dye. There probably never was a Master who in his heart of hearts would not think it right that a detected culprit should be hung for such an offence. And most Masters would go further than this, and declare that in the absence of such detection the owner of the covert in which the poison had been picked up should be held to be responsible. In this instance the condition of ownership was unfortunate. The Duke himself was old, feeble, and almost imbecile. He had never been eminent as a sportsman; but, in a not energetic manner, he had endeavoured to do his duty by the country. His heir, Plantagenet Palliser, was simply a statesman, who, as regarded himself, had never a day to spare for amusement; and who, in reference to sport, had unfortunate fantastic notions that pheasants and rabbits destroyed crops, and that foxes were injurious to old women's poultry. He, however, was not the owner, and had refused to interfere. There had been family quarrels too, adverse to the sporting interests of the younger Palliser scions, so that the shooting of this wood had drifted into the hands of Mr. Fothergill and his friends. Now, Lord Chiltern had settled it in his own mind that the hounds had been poisoned, if not in compliance with Mr. Fothergill's orders, at any rate in furtherance of his wishes, and, could he have had his way, he certainly would have sent Mr. Fothergill to the gallows. Now, Miss Palliser, who was still staying at Lord Chiltern's house, was niece to the old Duke, and first cousin to the heir. "They are nothing to me," she said once, when Lord Chiltern had attempted to apologise for the abuse he was heaping on her relatives. "I haven't seen the Duke since I was a little child, and I shouldn't know my cousin were I to meet him."