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That night the lone wolf, scouting along the ridge-top, stopped to sniff intelligently at the scattered, torn eagle’s feathers lying about in the trampled snow, at the blood, at the one skinny, mailed, mightily taloned claw still clutching brown-black, rusty fur and red skin; at the unmistakable flat-footed trail of Gulo, the wolverine, leading away to the frowning, threatening blackness of the woods. He could understand it all, that wolf. Indeed, it was written there quite plainly for such as could read. He read, and he passed on. He did not follow Gulo’s bloody trail. No—oh, dear, no! Probably, quite probably, he had met Gulo the Indomitable before, and—was not that enough?
BLACKIE AND CO.
Blackie flung himself into the fight like a fiery fiend cut from coal. He did not know what the riot was about—and cared less. He only knew that the neutrality of his kingdom was broken. Some one was fighting over his borders; and when fighting once begins, you never know where it may end! (This is an axiom.) Therefore he set himself to stop it at once, lest worse should befall.
He found two thrushes apparently in the worst stage of d.t.’s. One was on his back; the other was on the other’s chest. Both were in a laurel-bush, half-way up, and apparently they kept there, and did not fall, through a special dispensation of Providence. Both fought like ten devils, and both sang. That was the stupefying part, the song. It was choked, one owns; it was inarticulate, half-strangled with rage, but still it was song.
A cock-chaffinch and a hen-chaffinch were perched on two twigs higher up, and were peering down at the grappling maniacs. Also two blue titmice had just arrived to see what was up, and a sparrow and one great tit were hurrying to the spot—all on Blackie’s “beat,” on Blackie’s very own hunting-ground. Apparently a trouble of that kind concerned everybody, or everybody thought it did.
Blackie arrived upon the back of the upper and, presumably, winning thrush with a bang that removed that worthy to the ground quite quickly, and in a heap. The second thrush fetched up on a lower branch, and by the time the first had ceased to see stars he had apparently regained his sanity. He beheld Blackie above him, and fled. Perhaps he had met Blackie, professionally, before, I don’t know. He fled, anyway, and Blackie helped him to flee faster than he bargained for.
By the time Blackie had got back, the first thrush was sitting on a branch in a dazed and silly condition, like a fowl that has been waked up in the night. Blackie presented him with a dig gratis from his orange dagger, and he nearly fell in fluttering to another branch. And Blackie flew away, chuckling. He knew that, so far as that thrush was concerned, there would be no desire to see any more fighting for some time.