The side-stripe, as I have said, was the weightier beast, but the black-back never gave him the advantage, which he sought, of the close-fought fight.
More than once he was chased, but only to lead his foe into the open, where he could play his own game to his own liking; and at last, when the moon rose, and his mate had the female black-back driven back to her last ditch, so to speak, at the entrance to her lair, the side-stripped jackal, spouting blood at every joint, it seemed, collapsed suddenly, and apparently gave up the ghost.
Now, our black-backed jackal was not a young beast, and he was up to most wild-folks’ games—which was as well. He approached the corpse with caution, and as he poised for the last spring the corpse was at his throat. Black-back, however, was not there, but his tail was, and the side-striped one got a mouthful of the bushy black tip of that. Whereupon Mesomelas recoiled on himself, and for a moment a horrible “worry” followed, at the end of which the other dropped limply again, this time, apparently, really done for.
Very, very gingerly the black-back—himself a red and weird sight in the eye of the moon—approached, and seized and shook the foe, dropped him, and—again that foe was a leaping streak at his throat.
Mesomelas side-stepped, and neatly chopped—a terrible, wrenching bite—at his hindleg in passing. It fetched him over, and he lay still, the moon shining on his side, doubly and redly striped now.
This time it was Mesomelas who sprang at his throat—to be met by fangs. But in the quarter of an instant, changing his mind after he sprang, he shot clean up in the air, and came down to one side, and, rebounding like a ball, had the other by the neck.
For one instant he kept there, hung, wrenching ghastlily, then sprung clear, and, backing slowly, limping, growling horribly, flat-eared and beaten, the side-striped jackal began his slow, backward retreat into the heart of the nearly impenetrable thorns, where the winner was not such a fool as to follow him. And the black-backed jackal never saw him again. Living or dead, he faded out of our jackal’s life forever.
And when he turned, his wife was standing at the entrance to the “earth” alone. The other, the female side-striped jackal’s form, could be dimly seen dissolving into the night—on three legs.
“Yaaa-ya-ya-ya!” howled Mesomelas.
THE STORM PIRATE
The sea-birds were very happy along that terrible breaker-hewn coast. Puffin, guillemot, black guillemot, razorbill, cormorant, shag, fulmar petrel, storm petrel perhaps, kittiwake-gull, common gull, eider-duck, oyster-catcher, after their kind, had the great, cliff-piled, inlet-studded, rock-dotted stretch of coast practically to themselves—to themselves in their thousands. Their only shadow was the herring-gulls, and the herring-gulls, being amateur, not professional, pirates, were too clumsy to worry too much.