It must have been the fox. I had put the cycling gloves down on a garden wall, then been distracted by a telephone call that insisted on my opinion. When I returned after dusk only the right glove remained.
The wall is an established path for the fox that roams our gardens – I believe he has an easement or something of that kind. He must have supposed I left the gloves there for his consideration, and took the left glove to consider it.
What he had in mind it is difficult to say. We have all seen him in the twilight, skulking around our parked cars, checking for unlocked doors, for keys left in the ignition. It is not done in a neighbourly spirit; he envies us our transport. It does him no good. A car is beyond a fox; it isn’t in him to manage the thing. But he might have thought a bicycle within his reach: to take first one glove, then the other, and by degrees work himself up to the whole business.
Frankly, I doubt it. It smacks too much of strategy. A fox has plenty of tactic; he is all tactics; but he has no strategy worth a damn. He lacks the persistence to carry a campaign through to its end. It is all opportunity with him.
Or perhaps just meanness. The fox resents me. I cannot bring myself to blame him for it. It is a matter of theology. The Almighty appointed chickens for his dinner, but I deny them to him. It is an outrage, no doubt; it perhaps skirts blasphemy. But it is not to be helped; I will have eggs, and he must manage as best he can with chips.
If the theft was meant unkindly it was a shrewd blow. My left hand misses its glove. The fox, quickly distracted, probably dropped it soon after, most likely in a nearby garden. (The best candidates are 63 and 65 Parliament Hill; 79 and 83 South Hill Park – but who knows?) If you see the lost glove, let me know, for I cannot bear to look upon its brother, which is visibly distraught.
The hens know something of the matter, I am sure, but will not speak about it; they are too afraid of the fox. I have interviewed them, but when I ask them outright they change the subject to kitchen scraps, of which they are very fond, and ask if I enjoyed my breakfast. The first such inquiry is polite and quite charming, but the repetitions are unsubtle; they arrive too much like hints. You cannot fault a hen for excessive subtlety.
An interview with the hens