Short Stories » The Great Cat's Nursery

The Great Cat's Nursery - Page 2 of 6

As the great cat slunk down the valley of the Bear -runs she stopped and glanced nervously at every tree-root and grinning ledge of rock. On the way to Blacktail Creek she had to cross the divide, and when she had attained the Porcupine Butte she paused a moment for a survey, and saw a large herd of buffalo lying down. But their position was not convenient for an attack. There was no meat for her there.

She entered the upper end of the Blacktail and began to hunt down to its mouth. At the first gulch there was a fresh trail. On The Great Cast's Nursery that very morning three blacktail deer had watered there.

Igmu withdrew and re-entered the valley lower down. She took her stand upon a projection of the bank almost overhanging the stream, a group of buffalo-berry bushes partly concealing her position. Here they will pass, she thought, in returning to the main stream. Her calculation proved correct. Soon she saw a doe with two yearlings coming towards her, leisurely grazing on the choice grass.

The three were wholly unconscious of their danger. Igmu flattened her long, lanky body against the ground her long, snaky tail slowly moved to and fro as the animals approached. In another moment she had sprung upon the nearest fawn! A shrill scream of agony and the cracking of tender bones mingled with the gladness of satisfying the pangs of hunger. The mother doe and the remaining fawn fled for their lives over the hills to the next creek, knowing we'll that she would not expose herself in an open chase.

She stood over the lifeless body for a moment, then grabbed it by the neck and dragged it into the dry bed of a small creek, where she was not likely to be disturbed at her feast. The venison tasted deliciously, especially as the poor nursing mother was almost famished. Having eaten all she wanted, she put her claim-mark on the deer and covered it partly up. It was her practice to cover her game to season, and also to make it plain to all that know the laws of Wild Land that it is her game Igmutanka's! If any one disturbs it, he is running great risk of a pitched battle, for nothing exasperates her family like the theft of their game.

She could not carry any of it home with her, for even while she feasted she had seen an enemy pass by on the other side of the creek. He rode a long -tailed elk (pony) and carried a bagful of those dreadful winged willows, and the crooked stick which makes the winged willows fly. Igmu stopped eating at once and crouched lower. ' Don't you dare come near me," was the thought apparent through her large, round eyes. The man passed without discovering her retreat.

"My babies!" thought Igmu. "They are all alone!" The mother-anxiety seized her. It was dangerous now to cross the open, but her desire to get back to her babies was stronger than fear. She ran up the ravine as far as it went ; then, seeing no one, ran like a streak over the divide to the Porcupine Butte, where there were large rocks piled one upon another. Here she watched again under cover. " Aw-yaw-yaw !" burst from her in spite of herself. There were many cone-shaped teepees, which had sprung up since the day before upon the wide plain.

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