It is worth paying attention to coincidence.
Irusu is not one of those yappy dogs (thank goodness), that go hysterically on and on. She is mostly a quiet animal.
But that morning, as Danshari sat reading his book, she barked very loudly. He didn't mind being interrupted as it happened. He had thought the book sounded promising by the title, but the story wasn't quite what he'd been expecting and, truth be told, he was getting a little bit bored (and he hadn't even reached the middle). It is a good book, there's no doubt about that, but he'd been imagining something a bit more like Roald Dahl's stories, which this one is not. Nothing wrong with the book, but perhaps it was meant for a different kind of animal.
So then, at the top of her voice, Irusu yelled "FOX!!!!"
And just for good measure she augmented it with "DANSHARI! THERE'S A FOX IN THE GARDEN!!!!"
I expect you have heard dogs saying that — often late in the day, as dusk is deepening and the shadows of night are gathering.
But this was in broad daylight, and the crows at the top of the ash tree backed her up, shouting "FOX! FOX FOX FOX FOX!!" to anybody willing to listen. Foxes can be very dangerous to small animals, and crows like to be helpful. So do dogs.
Danshari lifted his head from his book, closed it, glanced at the cover, and put it down. "How very odd," he murmured; "I guess I'd better go and take a look."
By the time he'd gone all the way down from the attic where he was reading, and out into the garden, Irusu was nowhere to be seen. He was not surprised. "Hiding, I expect," he said to himself. And the crows had cleared off as well.
So Danshari surveyed the garden. "Where is it, then?"
And then Danshari saw something most unusual.
The people next door have chickens that live in a coop.
Not a co-op. That's something different. A coop. A hen-run. A sort of big cage that has their house in it with bedrooms where they can lay their eggs.
Now, our neighbour is not mean and cruel. The hens are prisoners, it's true, but the stout chicken wire that keeps them in is really there to keep foxes out. Because we live just up the hill from the park, you see, and behind our houses there's a wilderness of trees and brambles, a sort of housing estate for foxes. A chicken will feed a whole family of hungry fox cubs, and I've seen a vixen sitting crying in our garden, right next to the wall outside that hen coop, looking up sadly at the chicken wire, thinking about dinner. Those hens kept very quiet that day. They were listening too.
So the unusual thing about this particular fox was not that it was hanging around the hen coop, but that it was standing on the wall looking down into their run and talking to the hens — who were not squawking and screaming and running in circles as you might expect, but paying close attention and occasionally saying small words like "Amen."
Danshari was surprised.
He walked silently down the path that winds through the trees until he stood just beside the wood shed, where he stopped to hear what the fox was saying.
"Stand still in that which is pure," the fox said. "Stand still in that which brings peace."
And the hens did stand still, looking up at the fox with their bright, beady, interested eyes.
"Be valiant for the Truth upon earth," said the fox; "tread and trample all that is contrary under."
The hens stirred and muttered and scratched at the earth, and walked around a bit.
"Keep in the wisdom of God that spreads over all the earth,"said the fox, "the wisdom of the creation, that is pure. Live in it; that is the word of the Lord God to you all."
And all the hens said (several times) "Amen."
Then the fox said to them, "Christ, our Priest, sanctifies both inwardly and outwardly the walls of your house, the walls of the heart, and all things to his people." And the hens, in contented devotion, all said "Amen, amen, amen."
After that the fox turned round on the narrow top of the wall, and spied Danshari as he jumped down into the garden.
"Hello, friend," said the stranger, who had kind eyes. "My name is George Fox."
Aye, it would be, thought Danshari, but he didn't say so.
He just invited the fox indoors for a cup of tea.
Which is how George Fox came to be part of the gang. Just like that. He's been here ever since. And every evening he goes down to take some grapes and blueberries to the hens in their prison, and to exhort them to be still and cool and quiet in their minds and spirits, and to keep in the fear of the Lord.