« EelmineJätka »
would disconcert them if I chose. For as soon as the fox's tail was gone there one day sitting where I am now, there was peace in the ditch. suddenly, spectrally, appeared in front Only the whitethroat, fidgeting about of me a fox. I had expected a cat, for among the roots of the nettles, and still I heard a long way off a greenfinch give knowing nothing of the cause of the turthe alarm, shee-eep! shee-eep! and a moil, chittered and chattered as if she whitethroat, knowing nothing of the had suffered or were about to suffer cause, began chittering and chattering, some grievous personal wrong. But and then the blackbird saw the fox and had the fox met those plump young cried prink! prink! and by and by as wood-pigeons by the way, there would Reynard reached the ditch the old wren have been short shrift for the one and in the bank scolded him at the top of her cold roosting that night for the other. voice, and the other birds all came up By the way, how much too little imand scolded too, and though I could see portance we attach, when speaking of nothing, I knew that something was the lives of beasts of prey, to the enorafoot that threatened danger to the mous difficulties that the watchfulness birds, and was coming nearer and of birds and their intelligence of each nearer to me. And then right from over other's speech throw in the way of the my head, within an arm's length of me, flesh-eaters. And yet, it may have been a blackcap began, like a little fury, to these very circumstances that decided tell the intruder what she thought of so many carnivores to hunt by night. him, and the chorus of protest began to All day long they found themselves pespass by me, in the arching hedge-tops, tered by birds and their intended victhe laurels behind me and the clematis tims effectually warned of coming opposite. “A cat," I said to myself. danger, but as night began to fall, they "One of the cats from the farm."
discovered that the bird-voices became And lo! all of a sudden, right in front fewer and fewer, and catching their of me, its eyes fixed full on mine-the fox. prey unawares more and more feasible. And where it stood it sank down, as if So they gave up hunting by daylight it were going through the ground, but it altogether. kept its eyes on mine, sherry-colored For quadrupeds understand the cries of eyes, full of a terrible fear, and the ears birds. The rabbit, be it never so young. fringed inside with white were towards bobs under cover the instant the blackme, open to their widest, and the fur on bird sounds its tocsin; the squirrel skips the head stood up close and straight up the tree; the leveret raises its head making the face look quite round, with and cocks its ears preparatory to fligiit. the whiskered nose pointing out at me Everything in the spinney is at once on from the middle of it. So low was it the alert and tiptoe; and I have seen a crouching that its hips stood up sharply cat, when thus betrayed by the birds, on either side, and so close was it drawn express its rage as clearly as possible; up that the fur of the neck made a roll seen it bounce out from the line of curon its back. And while I watched it, rant-bushes it had been creeping under the eyes never blinked, the ears never and stand out at full height on the path, stirred, the nose never twitched. But wagging its tail in anger, and staring I became aware that it was moving, the after the vanishing bunny, exactly as pretty feet underneath the motionless the tiger does, or the cheetah, when it is body were at work gripping the ground baulked of its chance. In a jungle no hard and the body glided past me as if dangerous beast can stir for long withon wheels. And then, as if it had out some feathered sentry challenging breathed a sudden relief from fear, the its passage, and the best thing it can do head turned, and with the brush laid then is to get into hiding and go to sleep straight along the ground, the fox, at- there till the birds are in bed. tended by its noisy detractors crept up In my ditch there are sentries in abundthe ditch to the drain-pipe and disap- ance at either end, and a cat need not peared into it, taking with it, so it hope to surprise a meal there by stealth. seemed, all the clamor of the birds, for For everything all round it is shouting
out at the top of its voice, cat! cat! the have vested rights of occupation”-and moment the creature appears, and so no doubt are scolding the sacred monpuss, hugely disgusted, has to make off. goose of the Pharaohs with the same And it is very funny to see a cat, when indifference to propriety as they scolded found out by the birds, put on an affec- my Hampshire fox. Gone, too, is the tation of innocence, walk in the centre nightingale that lived here, gone to of the way as if the idea of concealing Greece perhaps, or the rose gardens beitself had never entered its head, stop to yond Damascus, the shy, slim, brown wash its face or take a roll on the bird that sang at high noon, either of ground, and in every way try to convey sun or of moon, regardless of the opinthe impression that it is quite indifferent ions or the manners of other birds. to the disturbance going on round it, My ditch a fortnight ago was frozen and in no way connected with or re- over with ice which a cart could have sponsible for the hullaballoo. But its stood upon, and knowing how all our little heart is, all the same, bursting small neighbors frequented it, we made with fury and eagerness for revenge, it and called it the soup kitchen. Here for the movement of a frog in the grass, it was then, unbeknown to the sparor even the sudden rustle of a falling rows, we spread ample banquets for the leaf electrifies all the unconcern out of starving birds, and here that I often the small beast, and it turns savagely saw the shyer birds, emboldened by the and swiftly in the direction of the quiet of the spot, come for food. The sound. But by and by its opportunity hawfinch was always here, and the jay. comes, for the birds are all asleep, and Here, too, on the ice, enjoying the the rabbits are abroad, by their families, scraps of fat, the woodpecker. nibbling their perilous way along the Then came the warmer weather and the edges of the copse and the hedgerow. ice went, and with it all the birds, and Poor birds! poor bunnies!
my ditch indeed, for “February fillBut all this is of other times, when the dyke” filled it up to the brim, and the roses on “triumphant briars," as Bottom passengers from the spinneys to the says, were abloom and the swifts were meadows found their highway closed. shrilling high up in the blue. There are And so perhaps it came to pass that I no flowers on the briars now; here and was able to catch “Bunnykin." In there a miserable rose-hip, pecked to ordinary times he could have come and pieces by the hungry hawfinch during gone by the hidden way of the ditch. the past fortnight of famine, and in the But the melting snow had filled the dull grey sky there is only the rook ditch level to its brim, and he had to fitfully ejaculating its commonplaces of come round by the orchard. courtship and house-keeping.
It was a very young one, so young And here, as I pass, a word about the that it did not even understand what rose-hip. Do you know that in the either "hiding” or “running away" spacious days of great Elizabeth the really meant. It had seen its mother sweet-briar was called the “heep," and do both, and countless generations that ladies made of its berries a delight of bunnies had seen their mothers ful confection, for which, says Gerard, do exactly the same. When they hid “the tooth is set in rich men's mouths." themselves they sat down very close to The sweet-briar, as it happens, has a the ground, and when they ran away very large berry, of which the skin is they made a short, rapid dash, and then curiously thick and singularly pleasant; came to a full stop. But this bunnykin a conserve of sweet-briar must there- had not yet realized the fact that if it fore have been very nice to the taste and, wished to hide there must be something as our old herbalist says, rather costly, near in which to hide. Its mother. for sweet-briars do not grow in such when it sat down very close, was in tall profusion as to make their fruit com- clover or meadow hay, or in cover of mon.
some kind, and when she sat down she The whitethroats are in Egypt-they became invisible; so, too, whenever she
VOL. XIV. 712
ran away, it was always in the direction with two little fore-paws, and carried of a hole or a furze bush or a hedge, or its trophies into the kitchen to the desomething where she was out of sight, lirious enchantment of two pug puppies and where by stopping very suddenly which were there in a box. But we all she misled the enemy into thinking she felt that these were the sad relicts of had gone ever so much further on. But "Bunnykin" betrayed to death by overour poor little bunnykin had not grown confidence, so we chided Prin becomup to this yet. When it tried to hide it ingly, and mourned for “Bunnykin.” sat down very close, it is true, but on And the pug puppies kept faithful to the middle of the path and most pathet- those fore-paws till they were so grown ically unconcealed. When it ran away up that they scorned their box; but in it was only down the same path a little case they should ever "unremember" way and then it came to a full stop the rabbit as Tots said, we christened without even a blade of grass to screen them Bunkins and Bunnywee. And it. How it escaped the cats I cannot Tots, sitting in one of her silly little imagine, but it did, for I saw it twice sentimental moods, cuddling the pups and the second time I caught it. I took on her lap and talking to them, said it up to the house and put it into the queerly, “We tried to be good to Bunnygreat aviary in the shrubbery; for when kin when he was a baby, and so when it saw me coming it bid itself—the he had gone dead he said to Prin, 'You pretty wee fool-by crouching down as may take my ’ickle paws to the pups to flat as possible on the close-shorn turf, play with. I don't want them any and when I walked up to it it made a more.' spasmodic little hedgehog sort of dash What a very helpless little mite a down the path and squatted again as if young rabbit really is whose mother is it were out of sight. So I picked it up dead, unable to say a word in its own for its own good, knowing that it was defence and with nothing that may pronot wise enough yet to look after itself, tect it but its baby-beauty. As it goes, and made a prisoner of it till its baby- out foraging for itself, a responsibility hood was past, and then we let it go in a absurdly disproportioned to its size, its spinney; and as soon as it was let go it every step must be a terror to it. With ran off as if it was never going to stop, what deference it treats the blackbird and I am not sure that I. ever saw it pecking at a fallen apple with such again.
furious energy. "I hope he won't peck But there was one rabbit that we all me like that,” says the bunny. And called "Bunnykin," which used to come here is a robin right in front of it, perkon to the lawn almost up to the draw- ing up its tail at the tiny grey passening-room door and eat the campanulas; ger and chirruping defiance, and the and now and again one or other of us bunny gives the impudent red-coat a would catch a glimpse of a rabbit near wide berth, but lo! a squirrel in the way, the aviary where, at intervals, the gar- making fearsome noises with nuts. dener's boy had been told to shoot all And the bunny lays low, and 'lows he'll refuse garden-stuff, a barrowful at a
wait till Brer Squirrel done eating nuts. time, aged cabbages with turnip and And there at the corner is a thrush hamcarrot tops (here and there an uncon- mering snails on a stone, as awe-inspirsidered rootlet among the foliage-oh, ing a sound to the bunny as Grumblejoy for Bunnykin!), and overgrown king grinding bones to make bis bread parsley and lettuces that had run to to Jack. Another bird is tapping seed, a veritable Ali Baba's heap of hollowly at a tree, and a creature down treasures; and we always said this in a hole is rasping away at something. rabbit was “Bunnykin."
Very suspicious noises these, and But by and by came a day when we threatening. And poor bunny's ears are found on the garden path fragments of twitching all the time with fright, and it rabbit fur and two little hind-paws, and hardly dares to nibble a mouthful lest Prin, our great Persian cat, came home "something” should overtake it.
When you pick it up, it lies on your vence and turning them into dialect hand as still as a dead thing, with ears verse for the diversion of his mother. laid along its back, and paws tucked in The good lady liked them; the and only its fast-panting sides-"draw- found the exercise entertaining, and by ing its breath as short as a new-ta'en and by, his bits of rhyme began to find sparrow"-to tell you that your pretty favor with the knowing folk of Avicaptive is in an agony of fear. So treat gnon. A little group of artists then com. it tenderly. A drain-pipe half filled bined to work the same vein; which with hay makes a sumptuous "burrow" they did systematically and more for it, and with a little heap of bran and less successfully, until Mistral came to parsley and lettuce leaves at the open render the association famous by his end the bunny finds life more com- masterpiece “Mirèio." The society called fortable than when buccaneering in the itself the Félibrige, and was content, orchard. For the creatures in the for a time, with its local fame. It was aviary are all friends, and it is not long mentioned with sympathy and admired before Bunnykins finds it out, and, at a distance, and its members dwelt in though never familiar with the pigeons their proper realm like feudal lords reand the golden pheasants and long- spected and all-powerful. But one day haired cavies, he is no longer afraid for the fatal ambition seized them of issuhis life, and all his neighbors 'low that ing from their own domain and making Brer Bunny is very specktable, and conquest, first of Paris and, after Paris, with no misbehavishness.
of all France. The literary triumphs of And, who knows, perhaps, he tells his certain southerners,-especially of Alcompanions about life “out of doors,” phonse Daudet, had intoxicated them. its incidents and excitements, and be They rushed to the siege of the capital, sure that if he did, he did not forget to and their tumultuous phalanx received tell them about the dreadful ailment fresh reinforcements every day. They so incidental to rabbits, which I suppose established themselves in the Latin they call "bang.” “It is a very common quarter, and chose for their place of ailment,” he would say. “and dreadfully meeting the Café Voltaire, which sudden.” What causes it we do not sounded thenceforth with the uproar of know, but all at once you hear bang, and their eloquence. They were noisy and one of us stops running. Sometimes he demonstrative, unceremonious and oblies quite still, sometimes he tumbles stinate; and they wore their beards head over heels, sometimes he seems to long. They nudged one another; they be unable to run and only creeps. And got into the newspapers; they gorged what happens afterwards we cannot themselves with mutual admiration. tell. Enough that he never comes home They came, erelong, to constitute again. And would add the bunny, formidable free-masonry against which “there is a very bad form of bang from one had to defend oneself. They were which you seldom recover. We call it amusing and men laughed at first, at bang-bang.”
their awesome accents, the intrepidity PHIL ROBINSON. of their pride, the superb confidence in
their own genius, which they cherished, one and all. They let the storm pass, and held on their way. They concocted among themselves a wonderful system
of advertising. The merest bagatelle From Les Annáles.
which affected them, assumed, at once, THE FELIBRE.
the importance of an affair of state. The "félibre” is a modern type, quite Once a month, they assembled in solunknown to our ancestors. The first emn conclave, and an official report of félibre to achieve renown was Joseph their proceedings was published the Rouncaville, who amused himself by next day. collecting some of the legends of Pro
But public opinion is capricious, and.
by and by, the world began to tire of of as many orations; the recitation of the félibres. They then perceiveil the fifty sonnets; the illumination of the necessity of keeping up the excitement pope's castle at Avignon by electric by organizing an annual fête, which light, and a solemn celebration of the might serve as a pretext for discourses glories of Mistral. What opporand “farandoles." They cast their eyes tunity for the “Félibrige!" The conupon poor Florian who had looked for spirators of the Café Voltaire exulted, nothing less than such a distinction, and their eyes gleamed with a sinister Florian had never written a line in the light. They fancied that the rest of us Provençal dialect but was sleeping would retire from the contest and hold peacefully among the roses at Sceaux, our peace; but not a bit of it! They in a cemetery overflowing with blos- have not yet done with the grandchilsom, the sweetest, sunniest spot of all dren of King Réné! the world in spring. This was quite I must admit, however, that the first enough. The félibres decided to or expedition was charming. All Proganize a pilgrimage to his grave. They vence was there, quivering with pride determined to secure, each year, some and excitement. And the north entered person of distinction to conduct the ex- frankly into the spirit of the thing. ercises; and they applied first to the There were four or five of us present, great men of their
own country,—to who represented in an informal way, Daudet, Zola, Paul Arène and Benja- the criticism of Paris; and who asked min Constant. But they had, of course, nothing better than to expand in the to provide a constant succession of new sunshine, and intoxicate ourselves with tenors; and when they had exhausted the same. The leader of our contingent the south, they turned their attention was Henri Fouquier, who made, on an to the north. They appealed to the average, two speeches a day, marked good nature of Ernest Renan, who was by a grace and a philosophic spirit that a Bréton; of M. Jules Claretie, who is were truly Athenian. The performfrom Limoge; of M. François Coppeé, ances lasted a week, and the time who is Parisian of the Parisians. Later slipped by like a dream. It was a pethey summoned to the tomb of Florian, riod of delicious vagabondage, along M. Henrik Ibsen, Count Tolstoi, M. dusty highways, and through the cool, Maurice Mæterlinck; it mattered little steep streets of ancient cities. And the whom provided only the trumpets of programme kept its promises. There the press made public proclamation of was a statue, or at least a memorial the circumstance.
tablet, ready for us, at every crossway. Eventually, however, the amiable It is incredible, the number of illus. chevalier, the gentle father of "Estelle” trious men, who have been born in that ceased to pique the curiosity of the pub remarkable country! When we reached lic. He became as old a story as the Orange we found the little town overrosary of Nauterre. It was necessary flowing. There was not a room to be to open a new vein and revive declining had, nor a bed, nor so much as a truss interest by some master-stroke. Then of hay. I can see our party still, drag. it was that one ingenious félibre, to ging its own valises, and humbly rewhom posterity may yet raise a temple, questing at every door a hospitality cast his eyes upon the Roman theatre which was amiably refused. Weary at Orange. Was it not sublime of the quest we sat ourselves down, at thought, that of restoring these ruins last, on the steps of the Triumphal to life, and bringing in the first artists Arch, and resolved to disconcert our illof the Comédie Francaise to play the fortune by a double dose of gaiety. immortal masterpieces of the classic Then the beloved senior member of our drama in that place, amid purely "féli- band, Francisque Sarcey, had a happy brean" accessories? The
occasion inspiration. might also be utilized for the inaugura- “The college!” he exclaimed. tion of twenty busts, and the delivery "Where's the college?"