Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays
41. CHAPTER XLI (continued)
In the midst of these whimsical fancies she heard a new
strange sound among the leaves. It might be the wind;
yet there was scarcely any wind. Sometimes it was a
palpitation, sometimes a flutter; sometimes it was a
sort of gasp or gurgle. Soon she was certain that the
noises came from wild creatures of some kind, the more
so when, originating in the boughs overhead, they were
followed by the fall of a heavy body upon the ground.
Had she been ensconced here under other and more
pleasant conditions she would have become alarmed; but,
outside humanity, she had at present no fear.
Day at length broke in the sky. When it had been day
aloft for some little while it became day in the wood.
Directly the assuring and prosaic light of the world's
active hours had grown strong she crept from under her
hillock of leaves, and looked around boldly. Then she
perceived what had been going on to disturb her. The
plantation wherein she had taken shelter ran down at
this spot into a peak, which ended it hitherward,
outside the hedge being arable ground. Under the trees
several pheasants lay about, their rich plumage dabbled
with blood; some were dead, some feebly twitching a
wing, some staring up at the sky, some pulsating
quickly, some contorted, some stretched out--all of
them writhing in agony, except the fortunate ones whose
tortures had ended during the night by the inability of
nature to bear more.
Tess guessed at once the meaning of this. The birds
had been driven down into this corner the day before by
some shooting-party; and while those that had dropped
dead under the shot, or had died before nightfall, had
been searched for and carried off, many badly wounded
birds had escaped and hidden themselves away, or risen
among the thick boughs, where they had maintained their
position till they grew weaker with loss of blood in
the night-time, when they had fallen one by one as she
had heard them.