Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 885
Silvia Fox married Richard Tebrick in 1879 and went to live with him at Rylands, near Stokoe, Oxon. The bride was oddly beautiful, a woman with small hands and feet, reddish hair, brownish skin, and freckles. Early in the year 1880, while the two were still very much in love,...
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Silvia Fox married Richard Tebrick in 1879 and went to live with him at Rylands, near Stokoe, Oxon. The bride was oddly beautiful, a woman with small hands and feet, reddish hair, brownish skin, and freckles. Early in the year 1880, while the two were still very much in love, Silvia accompanied her husband on a walk. Hearing the sounds of a hunt, Mr. Tebrick pulled his bride forward to get a good view of the hounds. Suddenly, she snatched her hand away and cried out. Mr. Tebrick saw a small red fox beside him on the ground where his wife had stood.
Even in her changed form, he could still recognize his wife. When she began to cry, so did he; to soothe her, he kissed her on the muzzle. Waiting until after dark, he buttoned her inside his coat and took her home. First, he hid her in the bedroom; then he announced to the maid that Mrs. Tebrick had been called to London. When he carried her tea to the bedroom and found his poor fox trying to cover herself with a dressing gown, he dressed her properly, set her up on some cushions, and served her tea, which she drank daintily from a saucer while he fed her sandwiches.
Because the dogs had all that time been making a clamor, he went out into the yard and shot them. Then he dismissed the servants and retired to bed, sleeping soundly with his vixen in his arms. The next morning, their daily routine started. First, he would cook breakfast; later, he would wash and brush his wife. Next, they would eat breakfast together, the same food Silvia had enjoyed before her transformation. Once he started reading to her from Clarissa, but he found her watching a pet dove in its cage nearby. Soon Mr. Tebrick began to take his vixen outdoors to walk. On such occasions, her chief joy was chasing ducks near the pond.
One day after tea, she led him to the drawing room with gestures that showed she wished him to play the piano; but when she continued to watch the bird, he freed the dove from its cage and tore his wife’s picture into bits. He also found himself disgusted by the way she ate a chicken wing at the table. One night, she refused to share his bed and pranced about the room all night.
The next morning, the poor husband tried an experiment. From town, he brought her a basket containing a bunch of snowdrops and a dead rabbit. Silvia pretended to admire the flowers; but when her husband left the room purposely, she devoured the rabbit. Later, she repented and showed by motions that she wanted him to bring out the stereoscope so that she could admire the views. She refused to sleep with him again that night. Next day, she pulled off her clothes and threw them into the pond. From that time on, she was a naked vixen, and Richard Tebrick drank frequently to drown his sorrows.
At last, Mr. Tebrick decided that to avoid scandal he must move to another location with his vixen, and he chose as his place of retreat the cottage of Nanny Cork, Silvia’s old nurse. He drove over in a dog cart with his wife in a wicker basket on the seat beside him. The best feature of their new home was a walled garden in which the fox could enjoy the air without being seen, but she soon began to dig under the walls in her attempts to escape. Once, thwarted in an attempt to escape, she bit her husband on the hand. Finally, he gave his vixen her freedom and allowed her to run wild in the woods.
Stricken with grief over the loss of his wife, Mr. Tebrick hired a jockey named Askew to follow the hunts and report on the foxes killed. He shot two foxhounds who strayed on his land. One night, Mr. Tebrick heard a fox bark. He heard the barking again in the morning. His vixen had returned to lead him to her earth and proudly display her litter of five tiny cubs. Mr. Tebrick was jealous, but at last he overcame his scruples and went each day to visit the young foxes. Able to identify the cubs by that time, he christened them Sorel, Kaspar, Selwyn, Esther, and Angelica. Of the whole litter, Angelica was his favorite. She most reminded him of her mother.
The Reverend Canon Fox arrived to visit Mr. Tebrick. After hearing Mr. Tebrick’s story, the clergyman decided that the man was insane. As the cubs grew older, Mr. Tebrick spent most of his time in the woods, hunting with the vixen and her young by day and sleeping outside with them at night. On one occasion, he purchased a beehive and brought honey to the pups.
One winter day, Mr. Tebrick was outside listening to the sounds of a hunting chase that ended at his own gate. Suddenly, the vixen leaped into his arms, the dogs so close after her that Mr. Tebrick was badly mauled. Silvia was dead. For a long time, Mr. Tebrick led a despairing life; but he recovered to live to a hale old age and may be still living.