The female bird listened, too, for about a minute, and then, ignoring the poor cripple as if he had never existed, hopped towards the spruce-fir—atop of which a particularly fine and strong-voiced songster was warbling—as if she were drawn by ropes. And—oh, horror!—the songster came down to her.
The cripple never uttered a sound, not a song, or a call, or a sign. He hurled himself straight at this new rival like a bolt shot from a crossbow, and he fought. My word, how he fought! But this new antagonist was no half-frozen, half-starved Continental song thrush. He was a Britisher, thick-set, bullet-headed, thick-necked, who had wintered, perhaps, in the south of Ireland or farther, and he fought like a Trojan.
All up and down the lawn the fight raged, and in and out of the hedges, into the mountain ash and out again, down to the ground and up again; but in the end—ah, but it could have only one end!—the Britisher was on the top of the summer-house, literally shouting his song of triumph. And the cripple was on the ground at the foot of the hedge, beneath the spruce-fir, lying on his side, blood-stained and panting. Nobody saw him creep away. Nobody cared—certainly not his lady acquaintance, who was too busy receiving glad eyes from the conqueror.
Also, nobody saw him die. Yet next morning he was dead, stiff and still on the ground beside the summer-house. Some think that it was the injuries he received in his last great fight that killed him. I do not. I could find no wounds upon him sufficiently severe to sustain that theory. I think he died of a broken heart. Don’t you?
“SET A THIEF”——
Cob arrived in a snowstorm of unparalleled ferocity. He came upon extended vans sixty-nine inches from tip to tip, which he seemed as if he were never going to flap. All black above, all white below, he was. The fact was worth noting, because, as seen from below, he looked neither black nor any other hue, but just indiscriminate dark, unless he swerved against the little light, and then his white “hull” shone like silver.
In his calm tacking, in his effortless play, in his superb mastery of the furious gale, one realized that here was one of Nature’s masterpieces. He arrested the gaze with his serenity, and in his majesty of flight marked himself as a bird apart.
Here was a bird accustomed to power, to respect, and to wield fear, as a king might do; but he was no king, even among birds. He was a great black-backed gull, immense, austere, and cruel, with eyes as cold as the waves whose glitter they reflected, and a heart as implacable as the storm that cherished it; sea-rover, pillager, pirate, swashbuckler, son of the storm in whose fierce buffetings he rejoiced, master of the gale upon whose fury he flourished—the very spirit of the ocean’s frontiers, arrayed in the spotless uniform of the sea, sailing under her bold colors.