| The hare's death-scream tells of a history soon over|
|My footsteps creak in the snow as I head down the lane from Sarn Helen. For a week or two each summer the families throng in from Chiswick, Highgate or Primrose Hill. In winter, all is silent here. An east wind has pasted ice around moss-grown trunks of coppiced hazel, holly, ash and alder in the field that came with one of the Londoners' houses. Drains blocked. It was left to revert. In summer you can scarcely see 10 yards beyond the wall. Now, trees bare, tussocks and twisting channels through the mire give a ruched and dimpling texture to the underbrush. I peer along the wall that separates this little wilderness from adjoining pastureland and catch sight of the fox.|
I'm 20 yards away but she does not see me. Her haunches on a moss-dome by the wall, ears swivelled forward, she sits upright and intent. A dark hill-fox of Wales. I follow her gaze across to where "the hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass".
His feet plunge into soft drifts. He drags himself along on his belly. Wind thin and cold as an assassin's knife carries his scent to the vixen's nostrils. Dry-stone division cuts the split-screen action. He arrives in the dip between scalloped white and piled stone, sharp face above him ferociously intent. She jump-dives over the low wall, forepaws thudding down on him, jaws worrying at his throat. Snow flurries as he parries, she thrusts. He kicks and writhes, she rips and shakes. His death-scream tells of a history soon over.
I have never seen a fox take a hare before, and suspect it seldom happens. She was patient, circumstance against him, his speed useless. She drags him to the top of a drift and on to the wall, leaps over and pulls him after her, his blood a dark trail. He's torn open, warm viscera gulped down. I turn for home. Registering, she bestows a brief glare. The moon climbs. Tonight she will howl and mate.