And it was the fox who was standing all alone, watching, with oblique eyes, the two great birds fast dissolving with every desperate, stampeding wing-beat into the hurrying cloud-wrack and the wild seascape—in opposite directions. He had made a good stalk, but had sprung a little short, had brer fox.
Upon a day, weeks later, we find the raven, whose young had left the nest, stolidly soaring over a small, flat island, golden with furze, purple with heather, pale-rose chiffon where it was covered with sea-pinks.
In addition to these, only one other hue, beside green, was there upon that island gem floating on the jade-green sea, and that was a patch of black and white! It flashed to the eye of the raiding rogue-raven, and he altered course towards it, when it turned into a female great black-backed gull, running, literally racing, to her nest, which the raven could now see, with its two big, buff, dark-splashed eggs.
Down flopped the giant gull upon her treasure, and began yelling, “How-how-how-how!” at the top of her voice.
But the island seemed empty of life, and her yelling useless.
Down dropped the raven in front of her.
Down winnowed the hen-raven at the back of her.
And, both together, they approached. And all the time the great black-backed gull continued to yell, “How-how-how-how!”
At last, when he had got close enough, the cock-raven lunged at her, or, rather, underneath her. She parried his stroke, and—the hen-raven lunged. Nothing now, she knew, could save her eggs, unless she rose to fight the cock-raven. The hen-raven then ran in. She only required a second in which to ruin each egg, but she never got it.
Nobody saw the avalanche coming, but everybody heard it arrive. It was of snow-white, and it was of jet-black, and it knocked the cock-raven one way, and sent the hen-raven, picking up her skirts, as it were, and fleeing, the other. And the name of the avalanche was Cob.
I fancy he considered that he bore a grudge against that cock bandit-raven. Perhaps in dreams he could still feel that trap on his leg. Who knows? He certainly used to wake up with outcries, and he equally certainly made that cock-raven shy of that island for evermore.
THE WHERE IS IT?
No one would have thought of looking for any living beast in the raffle of dried twigs and tamarisk “leaves” between the crawling, snake-like roots of the feathery tamarisks if it had not been for the noise. The noise was unmistakable, as the noise of a fight always is; and the only other living thing near the spot, a tiny, tip-tailed, brown wren—a little ball of feathers, dainty as you please, and all alone there, and out of place down by the terrible, snow-covered, wind-tortured estuary shore—made shift to remove herself, making remarks—wrens can’t help saying what they feel—as she flitted.