Puslapio vaizdai

down a pine board, scaring out endless putation was as clean as a whistle) is not worms, which he never ate! Indeed, they a heavy price to pay for wisdom, if you were utterly unfit to eat, for Jim of course really get it. And Jim did. “You'll tried them. Such a silly sheep! Well, he shinny on your own side after this, I was a poor, simple, deformed creature, reckon," Uncle Caleb had said grimly. with his useless stump-wings, quite unable And ever after, where Uncle Caleb was to fly. He must amuse himselt somehow. concerned, Jim shinnied. It was really

So Jim and Uncle Caleb tolerated each cheap,-a quarter of an inch of beak,- if other, and smiled at each other's odd ways, you stop to think of it. till they clashed one day in the matter of That was Jim's notion of it. Beak? a rip-saw.

Pshaw! What was a hair's-breadth of “Seek wisdom and pursue it." Jim, beak compared with wisdom? He sought endlessly curious, taking note of the rip- wisdom. Well, he had got it; he always saw spurting sawdust from the kerf under got what he went after, did n't he? Was the vigorous impulsion of Uncle Caleb's he to sit now and whine at the price? right stump-wing, felt the inevitable im- Scarcely. No, sir, walk up and pay your pulse to investigate. What a strange, fas- shot like a man. That was his way. cinating, filmy glimmer lay along the fly- Lamentation was womanish. ing teeth! And that curious, whitish, Thus with a lofty eye did he rebuke dustlike stuff which few from it, what the sorrowing of Aunt Malvina. He had might that be? Ant-eggs? He pecked at what was worth ten beaks. He knew it; then shook it in disgust from his beak. Uncle Caleb now for what he was-value

He pecked again, this time within a less for crow purposes, a mere brick in the grub's length of that fascinating filmy road, whereof it need only be noted that it glimmer. Uncle Caleb poked him away. was not the best thing in the world to take He did n't want the bird to get hurt. He a kick at in passing if you had tender toes. was an amusing rascal; besides, there were But one thing still puzzled him: why Aunt Malvina and I. It would hurt our had the Lord placed such bricks in the feelings like the mischief.

road for crows to break their experimental Jim came back, a trifle annoyed. Would shins against? It occurred to him that old Rusticus kindly keep his hands off? this was the same old question, really, The investigation might go somewhat be- which he had asked after his water-tank yond the mental processes of the farm- experience. Certainly the Lord did put yard, but he, Jim, was interested. If not one up against some hard ones, bricks and ant-eggs, what?

questions both. He pecked again, this time still closer

THE TUG OF WAR to the fascinating, filmy glimmer, and shook the stuff once more from his beak. It was Kartoffel who finally helped him Dry feed, that, much like breakfast-flakes, to the solution. Kartoffel was the cat. and not in it with a good worm; but There are cats and cats. Some of them what? He pecked again.

seem to be just monotonous repetitions, Uncle Caleb impatiently poked him the Lord's études and five-finger exercises, away the second time. Did n't the fool alike as ciphers; but now and again Heturns crow know anything?

to and creates a significant figure, a cat. Jim came back quite ruffled. Hang the Kartoffel was one of these. I like to old Rusticus! Did he mean to tell him think of her yet, although it is long since where to get off? Once more, if not ant- these things happened. She was a gray,

undersized, but beautifully built, a faUncle Caleb gave it up.

“All right,”

mous mouser, and clear grit from the he said; "keep at it, if you want to get tip of her battle-scarred nose to the end your teeth trimmed; keep at it; I sha’n’t of her tail. She feared neither cat, dog, hender ye. They 're your teeth.”

It was a fine sight to see And of course Jim kept at it. It 's an her sally forth when a strange dog came old story: he did n't know the gun was into the yard, legs stiff, back humped, eyes loaded. Poor Jim!

blazing, fur bristling at fixed bayonets, Still, a quarter of an inch of beak (it was tail Aying defiance at the masthead, to exnot so bad, after all, you see, and the am- pel the intruder out of her coasts. She

eggs, what?






generally did it. Occasionally she found under her very nose. The transaction the enemy too strong for her, in which

grew into a custom. He "cleaned up” a case she would effect a retreat up a tree. handsome little profit on it every day. But this was not because she was afraid. If, after what I have said about KarKartoffel was no fool. She knew when toffel's character, you think that such a she was overwhelmingly outnumbered, business must have been a perfect treading and, like any good general, understood per-' among spring-guns and hair-triggers, it fectly the necessity in such cases of pro- simply shows that you have not stopped tecting her flanks.

long enough to consider. You have forJim would never have subscribed to any gotten about those Black Minorcas. such description as this at all. Kartoffel, Kartoffel, you see, had been brought up in his view, belonged in the Black Minorca in the strictest tenets of the faith. She class. All cats did, and she was a "mere had always believed in Black Minorcas, unit of cat population” with the rest. in her way, especially the little, downy They were all low earth creatures; he was

Then Uncle Caleb took her in of the air. They were slaves and the chil- hand, and taught her that such love as hers dren of slaves; ag ago they had bent the

was not the fulfilling of the law. neck to man, and served him since. He To whet her teeth against Jim, therewas free. He came and went as he fore, would have been sacrilege. She pleased; Billy and I were his satellites; might gnash them, but not whet them; for Aunt Malvina was his bond-servant and the hosts of the Lord were encamped the preparer of his milk toast. As for round about him: he was a Black Minorca. Uncle Caleb, that brick in the road, he And not only were the hosts of the Lord did n't count. You just walked round encamped about him, the terrors of Uncle him, you flew over him. And this man Caleb, but the hosts of the very Prince of was Kartoffel's master, forsooth! She was the Power of the Air. He could Ay. Other a clod's clod.

Black Minorcas could use their wings, of As for Kartoffel's courage, stuff and course, but only feebly, with flap and flutnonsense! Never believe it; it was all ter; Jim had witchcraft in it. bluff. Stand pat, and any old dog could Jim, on his part, bore no malice. It was put her up a tree. Had n't he seen it all in the way of business, laissez-faire, a time and again? Courage? Rot!

Rot! A free competition; and if he had a long puppy could tree her, a poodle puppy. head and a sharp eye and a dexterous beak,

Billy and I knew better than that. We and Kartoffel had n’t, why, it was unforhad seen Kartoffel tried out. But why tell tunate. But what would you? Were the Jim? It would spoil the play. Besides, sacred laws of political economy to budge he would n't believe it. You could n't tell for her? Jim anything. We were admirers of Jim, And were there not always mice? Yea, but there were specks on him, we saw, just mice to sevenfold superfluity. Let her as there are spots on the sun. All we asked attend to them; let her do the work for was to be by when Jim seriously tried to which the Lord had plainly appointed her. call Kartoffel's bluff.

To encourage her in pan victual were plain Thus the game began. We appeared to impiety, a flying in the face of Providence, think, although we did not directly say destructive to her natural initiative and so, that it was Jim's business to lift his hat self-reliance, and leading, in the broadest to Kartoffel as he went by. He would view of it, straight to paternal governprove to us that we were wrong.

ment, state aid, and pauperism. Nay, Kartoffel used to dine out of a tin dish heaven defend us, to very socialism itself! beside the milk-house. Jim, noting the So Jim grew fat and sleek, and the fact, made it in his way to happen round store-house under the board-walk overat meal-time, steal what he could, and flowed with plenty, while Kartoffel nursed poke it down a certain crack in the board- the slow fire of wrath within her. walk where he stored things against fam- Billy and I were disappointed. We had ine. He would sidle up to the dish, get looked for feathers to fly. What on earth his eye on a choice morsel, and while Kar- could be the matter with Kartoffel that toffel stopped eating to growl, he would her fire was so slow?

her fire was so slow? We looked round shoot out a deft beak and snatch it from for a bellows.

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The butcher furnished the bellows. Jim's robberies grew bolder and more outWhen he came round of a morning we rageous, till finally he walked off one day would get him to cut from the edge of a with the dish itself in his beak, and tried to beefsteak that long, stringy, sinewy strip poke that down his favorite crack in the which we all know so well, and which we walk. Not succeeding in this, he dropped all so love and appreciate as a developer of it down an old post-hole. Luckily I saw our powers of Fletcherization. For our him, fished it out, and nailed it down purpose it was the very thing. One end we where it belonged. Even then he tried to would give to Kartoffel, the other to Jim. pull it up by the roots, as he had Aunt They were worth seeing, our two queer Malvina's geraniums. This rather pleased gladiators there! Kartoffel, braced, and Uncle Caleb. He admired perseverance. growling between her clenched teeth, but "I'd used boiler rivets, if I 'd been you," passive (for still she dare not lift profane he remarked; "you 'll have to, 'fore you 're paw against the Lord's anointed), Jim set- done." tling back on his haunches, pulling like a Kartoffel meanwhile was getting where steam-tug, the beef-steak sinew as taut as she suggested the old geologic theory of a hawser, and hanging over the two a the earth's formation-a thin crust over a “breathless multitude" (some half dozen) molten interior, white hot. Let this bogus of us half-grown boys, cheering our cham- Black Minorca, this brazen sawed-off-beak, pions on. It was truly a Roman holi- beware! Black son of a vampire, what did day, yet quite innocent of butchery or he here, masquerading in the sacred robes ? blood.

Black Minorca, indeed! But she would show For, do our best, Kartoffel still hung him! Did he think he could put one over fire. No feathers flew. Blow as we might, on her, as he had on Aunt Malvina? Kartoffel, although by this time a perfect Jim smiled. Danger? Heaven bless furnace inwardly, refused to flame in any you, no! These little ebullitions were just properly spectacular manner. We had to the spice of the pudding. What was life contrive a kind of substitute climax, lame without these little feminine exhibitions? and impotent enough, and not worth men- But for danger, pshaw! Did n't we untioning, if it had not been for its effect on derstand the female tongue? Sputter was Jim.

the breath of its being. It must sputter or Acting as toreador (the exigency hav- asphyxiate. ing compelled a shifting of the scene), But Billy and I by this time had lost our and armed with our old butcher-knife for nerve. We knew Kartoffel. Her wrath, sword of execution, I would apply the exploding in the open, was bad enough. keen edge of it to the taut hawser, esti- What would happen when it went off now, mating the middle as well as I could, to be battened down in the hold, bolted and rivfair, and the hawser parting, and Jim's eted as it was, under such a tension, we tail-brace likewise giving way, that aston- dared not think. She had grown a fearished bird would execute one or two glori- some thing to see. Several times, at guard ous back somersaults of triumph, as a kind over her tin dish, she knocked Jim sprawlof final sky-rocket to the display, while the ing. Her eyes glowed through the dark curtain was rung down.

fur of her face like the green flame through This was bad for Jim. He had long the doors of a copper furnace. Her growl had a suspicion that he was nearly, if not was the rattle of a coffin-lid. Her tail was quite, the most important wheel in crea- unspeakable. Kartoffel's tail was a martion. The proof was now clinched. It vel. It was long, lithe, and elastic, and was plain to see by his strut, as he made surcharged from tip to base with nervous off with his cantle of the beefsteak, that energy, which escaped at the end in perin his belief the breaking of the ship's cable petual writhings, like steam leaking from was due solely to his own prowess. His an overcharged boiler. The flags of the ignominious somersaults at the finish in weather bureau were not more prognostino wise disconcerted him. They rather

They rather cal. If the motion was slow and gentle, pleased him. They were an index hinting it meant serene weather; if it waved in at his vast hold on the hawser.

wider lashings, it meant a storm was brewNaturally, therefore, matters did not ing; but if this motion, becoming violent, mend at Kartoffel's tin dish. Every day dropped suddenly to a dead calm, with

upon her.

convulsive little twitches at the tip, then genius with your little squirt-pump of beware! That meant West India hurricane. penny-wise prudence ?

And Jim, too. We had supposed that we knew Jim, but this, we now found, was a

THE TAIL OF KARTOFFEL mistake. He could be, in fact, a dangerous NEVERTHELESS, those old-fashioned inills bird, with an eye like a hawk and a beak of the gods have a way of grinding right like a Fiji spear. (We had hauled him into on, even against the pooh-poohing of sudry-dock after his collision with the rip- perior persons, and in the present instance saw, and dressed the blunt end of it up they were about ready to deliver the grist. with a file, so that it was almost as good One day Kartoffel disappeared. She as new.) He had a jiu-jitsu of his own, was gone for several days. When she retoo; especially a trick, when hard beset, of appeared, it was immediately evident that turning over on his back and presenting something had occurred - kittens! a chevaux-de-frise of beak and claws that Kartoffel was a motherly cat; indeed, was bad for a dog's or a cat's eyes. Old more motherly, and more frequently so man Jones's Bowser, a big, bullying brute, than any other cat I have ever known. could tell you all about that. As Billy put Kartoffel was thin, but fit, and in a very it, “He never poked his nose into Jim's bad temper. She spat fiercely at the mere business a second time; once was enough." swish of Jim's wings in the air above her. It was this affair of Jim's with Bowser that Yet there was about her withal a kind of had "put us wise" to Jim's fighting side. grandeur. The dignity of maternity was

So Roman holidays were declared off. We expostulated with Jim. We drove him She was also very hungry-hungry with away from Kartoffel's tin dish. We tried a sevenfold hunger. She must eat now in a sneaking sort of way to make up to for six besides herself. And there above Kartoffel; but she passed by with dignity her in the air was Jim, his piratical shadow on the other side. No soft-sawder for her! darkening over her tin dish. Her bad temJim laughed at us.

per flamed into indignation, as if the spirit He had arrived, in fact, just at the stage, of her race, the lion in her, rose and stood which most other young fellows reach, of at bay. refusing to recognize any teacher but one, It was a busy season. We were stackto wit, our dear old friend Experience. So ing oats, two teams of our own hauling in he had built his little purgatorial pitfall, from the field, and two besides which just as we all do, had tossed in the lighted were loaned us, with extra help, by neighmatches-two or three boxes of them, in bors who were "swapping work." Uncle fact, so as to make sure—and was now Caleb was on the stack. I was helping dancing joyously about on the roof-beams, him. No time to fool with cats and crows. waiting for them to fall in, while the fire They must fight out their own battles. chuckled quietly below.

I hastily dropped a piece of meat in He was suffering, in truth, like the chil- Kartoffel's dish and scudded for the stack, dren of Israel when they went after the where Uncle Caleb was already calling for abominations of Baal, from excess of pros- me. Aunt Malvina was unluckily absent. perity. He reeked with it. Having es- There was sickness at a neighbor's, and of caped the edge of one buzz-saw, he forgot course they sent for her. Thus did all there

were others. He strutted, he things conspire together against poor Jim. swelled; he had cornered the wheat mar- As Billy put it to the Sunday-school class ket, he was all Wall Street. Remon- the following Sunday (where of course we strances and reasonings alike fell on deaf brought the matter up for adjudication), ears. He simply shed them, smiling down “It looked as if the Lord had it in for Jim. " on us the smile we all know so well — the At any rate, as I looked back from the smile which the superior person bestow's top of the stack a moment later,-it was upon us of the hopelessly mediocre class, as only a few rods from the milk-house, -I much as to say: Yes, yes, my dear boy, I was just in time to see Jim's beak shoot understand that perfectly, and for a fellow out toward Kartoffel's dish. The next of your caliber it is very excellent advice; moment her piece of meat was disappearbut for a man of Napoleonic resource, ing down that nefarious crack in the walk bah! Do you expect to put out the fires of which I have already referred to.

As for Kartoffel, it seemed as though the and wagon stopped altogether. Even very gray of her fur turned white with Uncle Caleb forgot for a moment that anger. Consider her situation. For oats were the most urgent fact in nature, months, now, this thing had been going and, leaning upon his fork, held his breath on, outrage upon outrage. Here now was for the outcome. the culmination, the final straw—the tin Kartoffel never swerved an inch, but dish empty beside her, her maternal foun- even at our distance we could see the green tains likewise dry, and yonder in the hay- fire leap in her eyes. She kept straight on, mow, posterity, helpless posterity, mewling silent, ominous, a vortex of wrath, but as for nutriment! Would it not have put still as oil. Her tail, which had been a backbone of fire in a very worm to rise perfect clothes-line on windy Monday, fell and smite?

as calm as a mill-pond; but its tip was But what could she do? She was help- terrible, snapping, crackling, and corusless. Jim was as strong as she was, even cating as if she were a very keg of gunon her own ground, and he held at com- powder on legs, her tail the lighted fuse. mand a whole wide empire besides, - the She had almost passed when Jim, reckless empire of the air,-over which she was loon that he was, gone clean drunken with powerless, but into which he could spring it, “fairly yellin' for the fool-killer to come• for harbor and refuge at an instant's warn- quick, and be sure not to ferget his ax!" ing. What could she do?

as Uncle Caleb put it, just as the tip of her Helpless, she turned away, and started tail whipped the air in front of his beak, across the garden toward the clover seized it and gave a sharp bite. It was the meadow. Perhaps you think it was to spark of ignition, set off by mistake in the hunt field-mice. Perhaps it was, but I do gasolene-tank. There was a single prenot think so. Field-mice were there, cer- liminary Aash of gray, then cat and crow tainly, and Kartoffel knew it; but I do not exploded together into an indistinguishable think it was field-mice now. No, no.

chaos of feathers and fur. She had far other matters on her mind. There is n't much to tell about the batWhy, I myself, watching from the top of tle. When lightning strikes, there is selthe stack, from that distance even, felt dom much left for the historian but the that I could have clubbed the scoundrel ruins. There is no strategy about a stroke insensible. What then must Kartoffel of lightning. It just hits; and you wake have felt? No; what Kartoffel wanted, in

you do wake up, to wonder what it my belief, was space to express herself in. could have been that struck you. The dooryard ample ordinarily, was at It was so with Jim. He had made the this supreme moment totally insufficient, old fatal error of underrating his foe. Pera mere hen-coop. So she started for the haps you think he did something with his clover meadow.

chevaux-de-frise. Not the first thing. He Then Jim, with an air as if the whole did n't have time. He did n't have time thing rather bored him, but perhaps there even to think chevaux-de-frise. Kartoffel might be a little more fun in it, and, blew up so quickly that his ideas flew fifty the whole, he guessed he would, lifted him- ways, and it took them until the next day self into the air and made over toward the to get together again, which was a little garden in the direction she was taking. late.

late. Anyway, it could n't have been five This brought them within two or three seconds after the first explosion (I rolled rods of the oat-stack.

off the oat-stack, they told me, like a fallBy this time everybody had perceived ing bundle) before I was myself on the that something out of the ordinary was ground, -and none too soon, -had gotten

Even “Mud Turtle" Perkins, who fox-terrier action on the scruff of Kartofhad been falling asleep for old man Jones fel's neck, and had pitched her, a red-hot at fifteen dollars a month "and found” ball of infuriated fur, half-way to the barnever since I could remember, woke up to yard gate. My hands bore the marks of it.

her claws for weeks afterward, the vixen! And when Jim dropped to the ground But who could blame her? a yard or two in front of Kartoffel, and Jim's "Waterloo ?" Well, yes, and with that nonchalant swagger of his "then some.” He was in hospital a full stepped along toward her, work on stack week with it, the entire surgical staff

up, if



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