“It is too bad,” said little Luke, “but Uncle Mark says that if some of the rabbits weren’t killed off every year, they’d soon eat all the grass from the sheep and cows, and we wouldn’t be able to raise any cabbages or turnips at all. Besides, you know, the house people like rabbit’s flesh to eat. I used to eat it myself, but I’ll never do it any more.”
“How dreadful!” said Mother Wa-poose. “I don’t see how anybody can eat flesh. Clover, or a nice, tender cabbage leaf is a good deal better.”
XXVI. MOTHER WA-POOSE AND OLD KLAWS THE HOUSE CAT
A few days after little Luke saw something that gave him a new feeling of respect for Mother Wa-poose.
He was going up to make her another visit. As he came near the brush pile, he heard a thump! thump! thump! “That’s Mother Wa-poose,” said he to himself, “and she’s angry about something. I wonder what can be the matter.”
He went around to the other side of the brush pile and then he knew. There was Old Klaws the House Cat, his tail twitching and his round eyes shining hungrily.
Just as the boy caught sight of the old cat, Mother Wa-poose sprang out of the thicket. She sprang straight at Old Klaws. The cat snarled and shrank to one side. But Mother Wa-poose was too quick for him. As she went over, she struck him a sounding thwack with her hind feet. It fairly made the old cat’s ribs crack, and he rolled over and over down the slope. In a second he sprang up, snarling and spitting. Again Mother Wa-poose sprang at him. This time she hit him squarely on the side of the head. Old Klaws went down, rolling over several times before he could right himself. The last thwack took all the fight out of him. He scrambled to his feet and went flying down the hillside at his best speed.
“There,” said old Mother Wa-poose, “I guess he’ll know enough to keep away from here after this.”
“Why, Mother Wa-poose,” said the little boy, “I didn’t know that you were such a fighter.”
“Well,” said Mother Wa-poose, “we of the Wa-poose family never fight if we can help it. We’d rather run. But we aren’t really afraid of anything our size. And this time I couldn’t run. If I had, Old Klaws would surely have carried off one of my babies. He got one of them this spring. You remember the one you took away from him. He is grown up and has gone out into the world for himself now. You know we Wa-pooses have three or four families each year.”
XXVII. THE RABBIT DANCE
“Would you like to see a rabbit dance?” asked Father Wa-poose one day in September.
“Indeed, I should,” replied little Luke.
“Come out to-night then,” said Wa-poose, “and sit down in the shadow of the stone wall in the corner of the clover field. There you will see something you have never seen before.”