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beneath contempt-a dirt-scratcher, time-server, running at every call of "Chick! Chick!" or breaking its neck through the slats of a fence, with an open. gate two feet away; a piece of market produce; a base, mechanical egg-layer; a loud-mouthed cackler about nothing, redeemed unto salvation if at all by its color only, and that third rate; no true crow color. He, Jim, not the equal of a Black Minorca? Merciful heaven! what next? It is easily understood, therefore, that when Uncle Caleb was feeding his halfgrown Black Minorcas, scions of a new strain, the eggs five dollars per setting, Jim was on hand, lording it among them wherever the feed fell thickest. It was quite to his mind, that feed, but pearls to those swinish Black Minorcas. How they gobbled it! He chased them away indignantly.

But Uncle Caleb did n't see it that way at all. He was n't buying patent chick feed at three dollars per hundred to fatten crow vermin on. Look at the beggar lord it! The black vagabond!

Jim was projected from the feedingground at a high speed and angle, and with utter carelessness as to where his trajectory would land him. He fell, in fact, plump in the water-tank, where he made panic among the drinking cattle, and whence I rescued him with considerable difficulty. It took him an hour and a half to get his feathers dried out.

Here was a new problem, very puzzling, and even more astonishing than puzzling. What could old Rusticus be thinking of?

Jim pondered it for some time, then repeated the experiment. The result was precisely what it was before. The watertank had been an accident the first time; it was a prearranged campaign the second. It was Uncle Caleb's idea that you could look the entire farm over and not find a better landing-place for Jim than right in that water-tank.

Jim took a good deal of convincing, but he was finally convinced. That is, he conformed outwardly; but like Galileo, he still believed that the earth revolves about the sun. Outwardly, however, he conformed to the Black-Minorcan orthodoxy. It was curious, though, to find the way of wisdom, hitherto so beautifully turnpiked and so smooth, ending thus abruptly in the middle of a water-tank.


As for Uncle Caleb, the case clearly needed further study. Confound the old Rusticus! There was an iron bar down his backbone in the matter of Black Minorcas. Once get an idea in his head,— water-tanks, for instance,-and there seemed to be no getting it out of him. Yet he was twine in Aunt Malvina's fingers. And Aunt Malvina was pudding, Heaven bless her! How could it be? Plainly, here was a case for further investigation. Now, when one begins to probe into the depths of any problem with curious and indefatigable beak, it behooves one to look out for the beak. Jim's investigation ended instructively one day in the carpenter shop in the manner and form that follow.

Uncle Caleb was building a new hayrack, and Jim became deeply interested. The shop was a new world to him, full of strange and pleasing things. The sun shone, the skies were blue overhead, and Uncle Caleb seemed at last to be getting some sense into him. Uncle Caleb had, in fact, softened somewhat toward Jim. Jim was a smart one; there was no denying that. And if he wanted anything, it took ten men to head him off-ten men and a water-tank; all he needed was starting in the right direction. And he certainly was a droll one! Reg'lar drum-major leadin' the band; head o' the procession for him.

Jim, for his part, was in clover. The shop and its odd furniture-the tool-rack and the bench, the bits and braces, saws and planes, and all the queer traps and contrivances which Uncle Caleb seemed to take so childish a delight in playing with all day long-Jim was endlessly curious about. He would strut up and down the bench by the hour, as trig and superior as a new building inspector. How queer and absurd it all was, indeed! But how curious and interesting! Those queer insects. grasshoppering with such speed from the edge of the chisel, what manner of new creature might they be? And those long, queer, flat curly things that came crawling so swiftly up through the crack in that odd, square stick, the plane, what were they? Worms? And what a queer bird, queerest of all the outfit, Uncle Caleb himself was! Such a long, odd, featherless, stove-pipe-legged, stump-winged old biped, pushing his ridiculous stick up and

down a pine board, scaring out endless worms, which he never ate! Indeed, they were utterly unfit to eat, for Jim of course tried them. Such a silly sheep! Well, he was a poor, simple, deformed creature, with his useless stump-wings, quite unable to fly. He must amuse himselt somehow.

So Jim and Uncle Caleb tolerated each other, and smiled at each other's odd ways, till they clashed one day in the matter of a rip-saw.

"Seek wisdom and pursue it." Jim, endlessly curious, taking note of the ripsaw spurting sawdust from the kerf under the vigorous impulsion of Uncle Caleb's right stump-wing, felt the inevitable impulse to investigate. What a strange, fascinating, filmy glimmer lay along the flying teeth! And that curious, whitish, dustlike stuff which flew from it, what might that be? Ant-eggs? He pecked at it; then shook it in disgust from his beak.

He pecked again, this time within a grub's length of that fascinating filmy glimmer. Uncle Caleb poked him away. He did n't want the bird to get hurt. He was an amusing rascal; besides, there were Aunt Malvina and I. It would hurt our feelings like the mischief.

Jim came back, a trifle annoyed. Would old Rusticus kindly keep his hands off? The investigation might go somewhat beyond the mental processes of the farmyard, but he, Jim, was interested. If not ant-eggs, what?

He pecked again, this time still closer to the fascinating, filmy glimmer, and shook the stuff once more from his beak. Dry feed, that, much like breakfast-flakes, and not in it with a good worm; but what? He pecked again.

Uncle Caleb impatiently poked him away the second time. Did n't the fool crow know anything?

Jim came back quite ruffled. Hang the old Rusticus! Did he mean to tell him where to get off? Once more, if not anteggs, what?

Uncle Caleb gave it up. "All right," he said; "keep at it, if you want to get your teeth trimmed; keep at it; I sha'n't hender ye. They 're your teeth."

And of course Jim kept at it. It's an old story: he did n't know the gun was loaded. Poor Jim!

Still, a quarter of an inch of beak (it was not so bad, after all, you see, and the am


putation was as clean as a whistle) is not a heavy price to pay for wisdom, if you really get it. And Jim did. "You'll shinny on your own side after this, I reckon," Uncle Caleb had said grimly. And ever after, where Uncle Caleb was concerned, Jim shinnied. It was really cheap,-a quarter of an inch of beak,—if you stop to think of it.

That was Jim's notion of it. Beak? Pshaw! What was a hair's-breadth of beak compared with wisdom? He sought wisdom. Well, he had got it; he always got what he went after, did n't he? Was he to sit now and whine at the price? Scarcely. No, sir, walk up and pay your shot like a man. That was his way. Lamentation was womanish.

Thus with a lofty eye did he rebuke the sorrowing of Aunt Malvina. He had what was worth ten beaks. He knew Uncle Caleb now for what he was-valueless for crow purposes, a mere brick in the road, whereof it need only be noted that it was not the best thing in the world to take a kick at in passing if you had tender toes.

But one thing still puzzled him: why had the Lord placed such bricks in the road for crows to break their experimental shins against? It occurred to him that this was the same old question, really, which he had asked after his water-tank experience. Certainly the Lord did put one up against some hard ones, bricks and questions both.


It was Kartoffel who finally helped him. to the solution. Kartoffel was the cat.

There are cats and cats. Some of them seem to be just monotonous repetitions, the Lord's études and five-finger exercises, alike as ciphers; but now and again He turns to and creates a significant figure, a cat.

Kartoffel was one of these. I like to think of her yet, although it is long since these things happened. She was a gray, undersized, but beautifully built, a famous mouser, and' clear grit from the tip of her battle-scarred nose to the end of her tail. She feared neither cat, dog, nor man. It was a fine sight to see her sally forth when a strange dog came into the yard, legs stiff, back humped, eyes blazing, fur bristling at fixed bayonets, tail flying defiance at the masthead, to expel the intruder out of her coasts.


generally did it. Occasionally she found the enemy too strong for her, in which case she would effect a retreat up a tree. But this was not because she was afraid. Kartoffel was no fool. She knew when she was overwhelmingly outnumbered, and, like any good general, understood perfectly the necessity in such cases of protecting her flanks.

Jim would never have subscribed to any such description as this at all. Kartoffel, in his view, belonged in the Black Minorca class. All cats did, and she was a "mere unit of cat population" with the rest. They were all low earth creatures; he was of the air. They were slaves and the children of slaves; ages ago they had bent the neck to man, and served him since. He was free. He came and went as he pleased; Billy and I were his satellites; Aunt Malvina was his bond-servant and the preparer of his milk toast. As for Uncle Caleb, that brick in the road, he did n't count. You just walked round him, you flew over him. And this man was Kartoffel's master, forsooth! She was a clod's clod.

As for Kartoffel's courage, stuff and nonsense! Never believe it; it was all bluff. Stand pat, and any old dog could put her up a tree. Had n't he seen it time and again? Courage? Rot! A puppy could tree her, a poodle puppy.

Billy and I knew better than that. We had seen Kartoffel tried out. But why tell Jim? It would spoil the play. Besides, he would n't believe it. You could n't tell Jim anything. We were admirers of Jim, but there were specks on him, we saw, just as there are spots on the sun. All we asked was to be by when Jim seriously tried to call Kartoffel's bluff.

Thus the game began. We appeared to think, although we did not directly say so, that it was Jim's business to lift his hat to Kartoffel as he went by. He would prove to us that we were wrong.

Kartoffel used to dine out of a tin dish beside the milk-house. Jim, noting the fact, made it in his way to happen round at meal-time, steal what he could, and poke it down a certain crack in the boardwalk where he stored things against famine. He would sidle up to the dish, get his eye on a choice morsel, and while Kartoffel stopped eating to growl, he would. shoot out a deft beak and snatch it from

under her very nose. The transaction grew into a custom. He "cleaned up" a handsome little profit on it every day.

If, after what I have said about Kartoffel's character, you think that such a business must have been a perfect treading among spring-guns and hair-triggers, it simply shows that you have not stopped long enough to consider. You have forgotten about those Black Minorcas.

Kartoffel, you see, had been brought up in the strictest tenets of the faith. She had always believed in Black Minorcas, in her way, especially the little, downy ones. Then Uncle Caleb took her in hand, and taught her that such love as hers was not the fulfilling of the law.

To whet her teeth against Jim, therefore, would have been sacrilege. She might gnash them, but not whet them; for the hosts of the Lord were encamped round about him: he was a Black Minorca.

And not only were the hosts of the Lord encamped about him, the terrors of Uncle Caleb, but the hosts of the very Prince of the Power of the Air. He could fly. Other Black Minorcas could use their wings, of course, but only feebly, with flap and flutter; Jim had witchcraft in it.

Jim, on his part, bore no malice. It was all in the way of business, laissez-faire, a free competition; and if he had a long head and a sharp eye and a dexterous beak, and Kartoffel had n't, why, it was unfortunate. But what would you? Were the sacred laws of political economy to budge for her?

And were there not always mice? Yea, mice to sevenfold superfluity. Let her attend to them; let her do the work for which the Lord had plainly appointed her. To encourage her in pan victual were plain impiety, a flying in the face of Providence, destructive to her natural initiative and self-reliance, and leading, in the broadest view of it, straight to paternal government, state aid, and pauperism. Nay, heaven defend us, to very socialism itself! So Jim grew fat and sleek, and the store-house under the board-walk overflowed with plenty, while Kartoffel nursed the slow fire of wrath within her.

Billy and I were disappointed. We had looked for feathers to fly. What on earth could be the matter with Kartoffel that her fire was so slow? We looked round for a bellows.

The butcher furnished the bellows. When he came round of a morning we would get him to cut from the edge of a beefsteak that long, stringy, sinewy strip which we all know so well, and which we all so love and appreciate as a developer of our powers of Fletcherization. For our purpose it was the very thing. One end we would give to Kartoffel, the other to Jim. They were worth seeing, our two queer gladiators there! Kartoffel, braced, and growling between her clenched teeth, but passive (for still she dare not lift profane paw against the Lord's anointed), Jim settling back on his haunches, pulling like a steam-tug, the beef-steak sinew as taut as a hawser, and hanging over the two a "breathless multitude" (some half dozen) of us half-grown boys, cheering our champions on. It was truly a Roman holiday, yet quite innocent of butchery or blood.

For, do our best, Kartoffel still hung fire. No feathers flew. Blow as we might, Kartoffel, although by this time a perfect furnace inwardly, refused to flame in any properly spectacular manner. We had to contrive a kind of substitute climax, lame and impotent enough, and not worth mentioning, if it had not been for its effect on Jim.

Acting as toreador (the exigency having compelled a shifting of the scene), and armed with our old butcher-knife for sword of execution, I would apply the keen edge of it to the taut hawser, estimating the middle as well as I could, to be fair, and the hawser parting, and Jim's tail-brace likewise giving way, that astonished bird would execute one or two glorious back somersaults of triumph, as a kind of final sky-rocket to the display, while the curtain was rung down.

This was bad for Jim. He had long had a suspicion that he was nearly, if not quite, the most important wheel in creation. The proof was now clinched. It was plain to see by his strut, as he made off with his cantle of the beefsteak, that in his belief the breaking of the ship's cable was due solely to his own prowess. His ignominious somersaults at the finish in no wise disconcerted him. They rather pleased him. They were an index hinting at his vast hold on the hawser.

Naturally, therefore, matters did not mend at Kartoffel's tin dish. Every day

Jim's robberies grew bolder and more outrageous, till finally he walked off one day. with the dish itself in his beak, and tried to poke that down his favorite crack in the walk. Not succeeding in this, he dropped it down an old post-hole. Luckily I saw him, fished it out, and nailed it down where it belonged. Even then he tried to pull it up by the roots, as he had Aunt Malvina's geraniums. This rather pleased Uncle Caleb. He admired perseverance. "I'd used boiler rivets, if I 'd been you," he remarked; "you 'll have to, 'fore you 're done."

Kartoffel meanwhile was getting where she suggested the old geologic theory of the earth's formation-a thin crust over a molten interior, white hot. Let this bogus Black Minorca, this brazen sawed-off-beak, beware! Black son of a vampire, what did he here, masquerading in the sacred robes? Black Minorca, indeed! But she would show him! Did he think he could put one over on her, as he had on Aunt Malvina?

Jim smiled. Danger?

Heaven bless

you, no! These little ebullitions were just the spice of the pudding. What was life without these little feminine exhibitions? But for danger, pshaw! Did n't we understand the female tongue? Sputter was the breath of its being. It must sputter or asphyxiate.

But Billy and I by this time had lost our nerve. We knew Kartoffel. Her wrath, exploding in the open, was bad enough. What would happen when it went off now, battened down in the hold, bolted and riveted as it was, under such a tension, we dared not think. She had grown a fearsome thing to see. Several times, at guard over her tin dish, she knocked Jim sprawling. Her eyes glowed through the dark fur of her face like the green flame through the doors of a copper furnace. Her growl was the rattle of a coffin-lid. Her tail was unspeakable. Kartoffel's tail was a marvel. It was long, lithe, and elastic, and surcharged from tip to base with nervous energy, which escaped at the end in perpetual writhings, like steam leaking from an overcharged boiler. The flags of the weather bureau were not more prognostical. If the motion was slow and gentle, it meant serene weather; if it waved in wider lashings, it meant a storm was brewing; but if this motion, becoming violent, dropped suddenly to a dead calm, with

convulsive little twitches at the tip, then beware! That meant West India hurricane. And Jim, too. We had supposed that we knew Jim, but this, we now found, was a mistake. He could be, in fact, a dangerous bird, with an eye like a hawk and a beak like a Fiji spear. (We had hauled him into dry-dock after his collision with the ripsaw, and dressed the blunt end of it up with a file, so that it was almost as good as new.) He had a jiu-jitsu of his own, too; especially a trick, when hard beset, of turning over on his back and presenting a chevaux-de-frise of beak and claws that was bad for a dog's or a cat's eyes. Old man Jones's Bowser, a big, bullying brute, could tell you all about that. As Billy put it, "He never poked his nose into Jim's business a second time; once was enough." It was this affair of Jim's with Bowser that had "put us wise" to Jim's fighting side.

So Roman holidays were declared off. We expostulated with Jim. We drove him away from Kartoffel's tin dish. We tried in a sneaking sort of way to make up to Kartoffel; but she passed by with dignity on the other side. No soft-sawder for her! Jim laughed at us.

He had arrived, in fact, just at the stage, which most other young fellows reach, of refusing to recognize any teacher but one, to wit, our dear old friend Experience. So he had built his little purgatorial pitfall, just as we all do, had tossed in the lighted matches-two or three boxes of them, in fact, so as to make sure-and was now dancing joyously about on the roof-beams, waiting for them to fall in, while the fire chuckled quietly below.

He was suffering, in truth, like the children of Israel when they went after the abominations of Baal, from excess of prosperity. He reeked with it. Having escaped the edge of one buzz-saw, he forgot there were others. He strutted, he swelled; he had cornered the wheat market, he was all Wall Street. Remonstrances and reasonings alike fell on deaf ears. He simply shed them, smiling down on us the smile we all know so well-the smile which the superior person bestows upon us of the hopelessly mediocre class, as much as to say: Yes, yes, my dear boy, I understand that perfectly, and for a fellow of your caliber it is very excellent advice; but for a man of Napoleonic resource, bah! Do you expect to put out the fires of

genius with your little squirt-pump of penny-wise prudence?


NEVERTHELESS, those old-fashioned mills of the gods have a way of grinding right on, even against the pooh-poohing of superior persons, and in the present instance they were about ready to deliver the grist.

One day Kartoffel disappeared. She was gone for several days. When she reappeared, it was immediately evident that something had occurred-kittens! For Kartoffel was a motherly cat; indeed, more motherly, and more frequently so than any other cat I have ever known.

Kartoffel was thin, but fit, and in a very bad temper. She spat fiercely at the mere swish of Jim's wings in the air above her. Yet there was about her withal a kind of grandeur. The dignity of maternity was upon her.

She was also very hungry-hungry with a sevenfold hunger. She must eat now for six besides herself. And there above her in the air was Jim, his piratical shadow darkening over her tin dish. Her bad temper flamed into indignation, as if the spirit of her race, the lion in her, rose and stood at bay.

It was a busy season. We were stacking oats, two teams of our own hauling in from the field, and two besides which were loaned us, with extra help, by neighbors who were "swapping work." Uncle Caleb was on the stack. I was helping him. No time to fool with cats and crows. They must fight out their own battles.

hastily dropped a piece of meat in Kartoffel's dish and scudded for the stack, where Uncle Caleb was already calling for me. Aunt Malvina was unluckily absent. There was sickness at a neighbor's, and of course they sent for her. Thus did all things conspire together against poor Jim. As Billy put it to the Sunday-school class the following Sunday (where of course we brought the matter up for adjudication), "It looked as if the Lord had it in for Jim.”

At any rate, as I looked back from the top of the stack a moment later,-it was only a few rods from the milk-house,-I was just in time to see Jim's beak shoot out toward Kartoffel's dish. The next moment her piece of meat was disappearing down that nefarious crack in the walk which I have already referred to.

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