Page images
[merged small][merged small][graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

he had so easily made, soon thought it time to call On this the owls hissed so vehemently, and a meeting of his admirers in order to discuss kicked and jumped about in so comical a way, that their wrongs, and on the appointed day he took up the orator, who had himself been gesticulating most a commanding position on a hillock, while the owls violently, stopped for a moment, and a rattlesnake, stood blinking around him, and began

who had been waiting to see which side would be "Friends and brothers, you are a shamefully- the safer to take, now finding public opinion was treated and down-trodden community. [“ Hiss !” against the viscachas, glided up and whisperedsaid all the owls, in assent.) You have as good a right “You may rely upon my help and support,



Nehela; only remember, I will not have my name unless they repaid in some way the trouble which brought forward, as I have a character to uphold, the animals had gone to in digging their burrows. but I will do my best for you privately."

But they spoke to deaf ears—all was of no avail. The viscacha, though he disliked and feared the The rattlesnake and Nehela excited the birds

whenever they thought their ardour was beginning to cool, and soon the whole colony was in a state of confusion.

The viscachas, finding entreaties and threats of no use, determined to eject the owls by means of force, and engaged some pacas to help them, which, as they were courageous fellows, they appeared very well able to do.

So one night a large body of pacas, directed by a few of their employers, assembled around some holes and prepared to dislodge the owls who inhabited them, and make an example of them.

The pacas surrounded each dwelling, and called on the owls to come forth; but no owls appeared from the interior, though crowds came fying up from all sides, and began as.

sailing and tormenting the animals. snake Some owls flapped over the pacas' heads so as to

in his nearly blind them ; others made the fur fly from the heart, animals' backs with their sharp claws; and all

could hissed and screamed with such fury that at last the “HE BOWED POLITELY."

not af

bewildered animals retired in disgust, leaving the

ford to make an birds complete masters of the field. enemy of him, so he bowed politely, and expressed The viscachas were much disappointed, but they his thanks for the valuable aid which was pro. quite allowed that their allies had done all that mised. Meantime, the owls were clamouring to could be expected of them, and they determined to know what they were to do in asserting their try again. rights.

It would have been a great matter if, in this time “Of course, to resist any oppression," replied of tumult and anarchy, the viscachas had acted in their instructor, cautiously. “Do not be slaves; you concert, but, unfortunately, they did not; instead are as good as your neighbours.”

of meeting together and concerting some plan, “We'll do no more work, then," cried Tawny, which might have the desired effect of subduing one of the owls, gleefully. “All play from this their feathered followers, they contented themselves time forth. Now, jolly owlets and friends, do with running from one hole to another, cryingyou hear ? Let us shake hands on our emanci. “Did you ever see such a dreadful state as pation."

we are in? What is to become of us?” and then Whereupon ensued a great rustling of wings and going home again, each viscacha flattering himself snapping of bills, as the birds saluted each other that, at any rate, his own particular owl would while standing on one leg, and the meeting broke up. never unite with the others against him.

What about the viscachas all this time? At first Vain hope ! The discontent spread on all sides. they had looked upon the whole affair with the Sometimes a viscacha, hurrying home at sunrise greatest contempt, and said to each other that it after a short expedition, would find his dwelling was quite beneath their notice, and that the owls destroyed, and his family turned out of doors. would soon come to their senses ; but presently Indeed, the owls had become so insane that they matters began to assume a more serious aspect. actually, on several occasions, fell upon a house

The birds, beginning their war of independence holder, when they found him alone, and brutally in the very outskirts of the colony, refused to keep killed him. watch during the daytime. The viscachas threatened All this time you may guess how happy the rattleto turn them out unless they complied, and tried to snakes were ! They “laughed and grew fat” on the reason with their misguided retainers, asking how miseries of their neighbours, and many an unforthey could be expected to give the owls lodging, i tunate young viscacha, as well as many a helpless,

[ocr errors]


childish old owl fell a victim to their poisoned fangs. These summary measures had certainly an effect

Nehela had by this time been thrown rather into in intimidating the birds. Tawny, who had been a the background. Many other agitators who began spectator of the scene, flew away in a great by following him had now gone far beyond him in fright, and hid himself in a hollow log of wood, the paths of disturbance, and he began to be afraid peeping out cautiously at intervals to see what the of losing his influence.

dreaded soldiery were about: At last a bright idea occurred to him : he would He had not been long in his place of conceal. try and impoverish the viscachas in a new way. ment when a dull trampling noise, which was comAll about the Pampas round the holes grew ing nearer and nearer, attracted his notice. He quantities of delicious little water-melons, which pricked up his ears, and cast his goggle eyes around the animals were particularly fond of feeding on, to discover what this could mean. and his plan was that they should be deprived of At some distance from the burrows, out on the them ; so he collected the owls, issued his orders, Pampas, were a troop of gaily-dressed horsemen, and presently the ground was covered with in- in pursuit of a few guanacos. They were dashing fatuated birds, some trying to peck the stalks of rapidly along, gaining on their prey at every stride, the melons across, others using all their strength and the guanacos, squeaking and bewildered, to roll the severed fruit to a distance, because the seemed blown and exhausted. They held on, viscachas never

however, until they saw the carefully-concealed by any chance

abodes of the viscachas in front of them, and, wandered far

warned by instinct and long experience, they ther than about half a mile from their homes.

The poor little fellows had borne a good deal ; but to be deprived of their favourite food was more than flesh and blood could bear, and at last they determined to fight in earnest.

In addition to the pacas they now listed a regiment of cavies, who, in their brown and yel. low uniforms, with white facings, looked very formidable. The great band, encouraged by each other, hesitated no longer ; so they marched straight to

swerved some isolated burrows, and, darting

aside, and in, made prisoners of several of the " CROWDS CAME FLYING UP FROM ALL SIDES (P. 86). cantered most turbulent owls, and marching

along the them off, shut them up in close confinement. They , outskirts of the colony. Not so the Spaniards. also demolished their nests, and carried away some The foremost horseman had been almost close eggs which they found lying about, in order to enough to the guanacos to throw his bolas at strike the more terror into the insurgents' hearts. the moment they doubled, and not being able



[ocr errors]

nothing of it, so away he flew to his patron, Nehela, and gave him such a flourishing account of his treasure that the viscacha followed him to the place, and was as much delighted at the pretty bauble as his bird friend could have desired. Nehela determined not to lose the

prize, so he dragged it to the mouth of his burrow, and left it there among the piles of dry bones and chips of wood

which lay around it. The Spaniard, Eroles, had, however, hardly reached home when he dis

covered that he had lost a medallion which he " THE GREAT BAND

highly prized, and he bewailed himself aloud as MARCHED STRAIGHT TO SOME LENzsfoyise ISOLATED BURROWS" (P. 87). the most unfortunate of men—his horse's knees

broken, and his jewel lost in one day; surely his to check his horse, the animal bounded on. Mishaps trials were many, he said. now followed, for as he dashed onward he put “Take heart, Eroles," said one of his neighbours. his foot into a viscacha's hole, and came to “ You are sure to have lost it when you fell; we the ground with a terrible crash, his master being will all go with you, and will help you to search thrown right out of the saddle, describing a graceful for it.” curve in the air, and alighting some yards in front “ It is no use," sighed the desponding man; of his steed's nose ; and his friends, warned by "even if what you say is the case, the viscachas the catastrophe which had befallen him, managed always pick up everything strange they see.” to pull up only just in time to avoid a similar fate. “And if they have stolen it, don't you know that

The Spaniards condoled with their friend as well they are sure to have left it outside their burrows ?” as they could for his misfortune,

cried his more assisted him to mount again,

sanguine and all the party there

friend. upon trotted slowly away, for of course the guanacos were quite out of sight long before.

But Taw. ny's eyes had now caught a glitter of something in the grass, and as soon as he could safely venture out, he flew towards the object of his

“HE.... TURNED IT OVER." curiosity, and saw a shining, bright-coloured, round substance Thus adjured, the Don tried to assume his former lying on the ground. He looked and looked at gaiety, and he and his friends, each armed with a it; then he pecked it, and put his head on one bucket, started for the viscachas' home. side, and turned it over ; but he could make Now was the time for the owls to have shown

[ocr errors]

themselves not quite destitute of gratitude and really the Pampas had become too demoralised for friendly feelings, for each, perched on some little respectable creatures to inhabit it. Others held eminence and blinking in the sun, saw the party of out, and, by means of always being guarded by men approaching. For a moment the idea of giving the cavies and pacas, managed to exist until warning occurred to a few of them ; but the evil Nehela died. By degrees all active enmity was counsels of Nehela and the rattlesnakes had been forgotten, and things settled down again, but the too often repeated to be forgotten. The birds stupidly friendly feeling which had once existed was never stood basking until the hunters were close upon restored. Though them, and then slowly flew a few yards off before occasionally both diving into burrows to hide.

viscachas But oh! the poor viscachas ! Their horror may and be imagined when down their staircases and into their nice clean rooms came pouring a stream of water. They shook their paws,and stamped, and grunted; then, rendered furious by the prospect of being drowned, they rushed madly out, and attacked the legs of the Spaniards, all of whom were trying to destroy them. They scratched and bit as well as they could, but being without any means of escape, the poor little animals were not able to protect themselves and their homes, and Eroles and his friends killed great num. bers with their sticks.

I am glad to say that some of the owls also fell vic. tims to their revengeful spirit, and a terrible commo

THEY RUSHED MADLY OUT." tion was caused when some rattlesnakes appeared and prepared to owls may be seen taking refuge in the same burrow, strike the men.

it is only for time being as -.


It was whilst trying to kill one of these reptiles"And when the owls" houses are so perfectly un

that Eroles at last discovered his medallion ; but inhabitable that they are forced to leave them, they he and his companions did not desist from the must now dig a burrow for themselves ; so I think, slaughter for some time.

on the whole, they must have been happier and After innumerable skirmishes and arrests, and more comfortable before their insurrection, as, if great hardships being endured by the viscachas, they had any conscience left, it must have pricked many of them left the colony altogether, saying that them sorely for their ingratitude. FRANCESCA.

« PreviousContinue »