Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/718

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By-and-by the weasel, baffled for a few minutes, comes up behind. Instantly the rabbit slips over the bank outside and down the ditch for a dozen yards, and there enters the "bury" again. The weasel follows, gliding up the bank with a motion not unlike that of the snake; for his body and neck are long and slender, and his legs short. Apparently he is not in haste, but rather lingers over the scent. This is repeated five or six times, till the whole length of the hedgerow has been traversed—sometimes up and down again. The chase may be easily observed by any one who will keep a little in the background. Although the bank be tenanted by fifty other rabbits, past whose hiding-place the weasel must go, yet they scarcely take any notice. One or two, whom he has approached too closely, bolt out and in again; but as a mass the furry population remain quiet, as if perfectly aware that they are not yet marked out for slaughter. At last, having exhausted the resources of the bank, the rabbit rushes across the field to a hedgerow, perhaps a hundred yards away. Here the wretched creature seems to find a difficulty in obtaining admittance. Hardly has he disappeared in a hole before he comes out again, as if the inhabitants of the place refused to give him shelter. For many animals have a strong tribal feeling, and their sympathy, like that of man in a savage state, is confined within their special settlement. With birds it is the same; rooks, for instance, will not allow a strange pair to build in their trees, but drive them off with relentless beak, tearing down the half-formed nest, and taking the materials to their own use. The sentiment, "If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, what good shall my life do me?" appears to animate the breasts of gregarious creatures of this kind. Rooks intermarry generation after generation; and if a black lover brings home a foreign bride, they are forced to build in a tree at some distance. Near large rookeries several such outlying colonies may be seen.

The rabbit, failing to find a cover, hides in the grass and dry rushes; but across the meadow, stealing along the furrow, comes the weasel; and, shift his place how he may, in the end, worn out and weary, bunny succumbs, and the sharp teeth meet in the neck behind the ear, severing the vein. Ofter in the end the rabbit runs to earth in a hole which is a cul-de-sac, with his back toward the pursuer. The weasel, unable to get at the poll, which is his desire, will mangle the hinder parts in a terrible manner—as will the civilized ferret under similar conditions. Now and then the rabbit, scratching and struggling, fills the hole in the rear with earth, and so at the last moment chokes off his assailant and finds safety almost in the death agony. In the woods, once the rabbit is away from the "buries," the chase really does resemble a hunt; from furze-bush to bracken, from fern to rough grass, round and round, backward, doubling, to and fro, and all in vain. At such times, eager for blood, the weasel