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Shriller is grieving
The blast, the blast;
At last,—at last !
Should be,-should be;
Ah me!-ah me!
Vain is thy chiding,
For hark !—for hark !
The bark,—the bark !
The sea, -the sea
W. M. Praed.
A FIGHT WITH A POLE-CAT.1
ONE of the most severe encounters that Edward ever had with a nocturnal roamer was with a polecat or Fumart, in the ruined castle of the Boyne. The pole-cat is of the same family as the weasel, but it is longer, bigger, and stronger. It is called Fumart because of the foetid odour which it emits when irritated or attacked. It is an extremely destructive brute, especially in the poultry-yard,
From The Life of a Scotch Naturalist
where it kills far more than it eats. Its principal luxury seems to be to drink the blood and suck the brains of the animal it kills. It destroys everything that the game-keeper wishes to preserve. Hence the destructive war that is so constantly waged against the pole-cat.
The ruined Castle of the Boyne, about five miles west of Banff, was one of Edward's favourite night haunts. The ruins occupy the level summit of a precipitous bank forming the eastern side of a ravine, through which the little river Boyne flows. One of the vaults, level with the ground, is used as a sheltering place for cattle. Here Edward often took refuge during rain, or while the night was too dark to observe. The cattle soon got used to him. When the weather was dry, and the animals fed or slept outside, Edward had the vault to himself. On such occasions he was visited by rats, rabbits, owls, weasels, pole-cats, and other animals.
One night, as he was lying upon a stone, dozing or sleeping, he was awakened by something patpatting against his legs. He thought it must be a rabbit or a rat, as he knew they were about the place. He only moved his legs a little, so as to drive the creature away. But the animal would not go. Then he raised himself up, and away it went;
but the night was so dark that he did not see what the animal was. Down he went again to try and get a sleep; but before a few ininutes had elapsed, he felt the same pat-patting. On this occasion it was higher up his body. He now swept his hand across his breast, and thrust the intruder
off. The animal shrieked as it fell to the ground, Edward knew the shriek at once. It was a pole. cat.
He now shifted his position a little, so as to be opposite the doorway, where he could see his antagonist betwixt him and the sky. He also turned upon his side in order to have more freedom to act. He had in one of his breast-pockets a water-hen which he had shot that evening; and he had no doubt that this was the bait which attracted the pole-cat. He buttoned up his coat to his chin, so as to prevent the bird from being carried away by force. He was now ready for whatever might happen. Edward must tell the rest of the story in his own words:
Well, just as I hoped and expected, in about twenty minutes I observed the fellow entering the vault, looking straight in my direction. He was very cautious at first. He halted and looked around him. He turned a little, and looked out. I could easily have shot him now, but that would have spoilt the sport, besides, I never wasted my powder and shot upon anything that I could take with my hands. Having stood for a few seconds, he slowly advanced, keeping his nose to the ground. On he
He put his fore-feet on my legs, and stared me full in the face for about a minute. 'I wondered what he would do next,—whether he would come nearer or go away. When satisfied with his look at my face, he dropped his feet and ran out of the vault.
I was a good deal disappointed; and I feared that my look had frightened him. By no
means; I was soon reassured by hearing the wellknown and ominous squeak-squeak of the tribe. It occurred to me that I was about to be assaulted by a legion of pole-cats, and that it might be best to beat a retreat.
“I was just in the act of rising, when I saw my adversary once more make his appearance at the entrance. He seemed to be alone. I slipped quietly down again to my former position, and waited his attack. After a rather slow and protracted march, in the course of which he several times turned his head towards the door nouvre which I did not at all like-he at last approached me. He at once leapt upon me, and looked back towards the entrance. I lifted my head, and he looked full in my face. Then he leapt down, and ran to the entrance once more, and gave a squeak. No answer. He returned and leapt upon me again. He was now in a better position than before, but not sufficiently far up for my purpose. Down went his nose, and up, up he crawled over my body towards the bird in my breast-pocket. His head was low down, so that I couldn't seize him.
“I lay as still as death; but, being forced to breathe, the movement of my chest made the brute raise his head, and at that moment I gripped him by the throat! I instantly sprang to my feet, and held on.
But I actually thought that he would have torn my hand to pieces with his claws. I endeavoured to get him turned round, so as to get my hand to the back of his neck. Even then, I had enough to do to hold him fast. How he screamed and yelled ! What an unearthly noise in the dead of night! The vault rang with his howlings! And then what an awful stench he emitted during his struggles! The very jackdaws in the upper stories of the castle began to caw! Still I kept my hold. But I could not prevent his yelling at the top of his voice. Although I gripped and squeezed with all my might and main, I could not choke him.
"Then I bethought me of another way of dealing with the brute. I had in my pocket about an ounce of chloroform, which I used for capturing insects. I took the bottle out, undid the cork, and thrust the ounce of chloroform down the Fumart's throat. It acted as a sleeping draught. dually lessened his struggles. Then I laid him down upon a stone, and, pressing the iron heel of my boot upon his neck, I dislocated his spine, and he struggled no more. I was quite exhausted when the struggle was over.
The fight must have lasted nearly two hours. It was the most terrible encounter that I ever had with an animal of his class. My hands were very much bitten and scratched; and they long continued inflamed and sore. But the prey I had captured was well worth the struggle. He was a large and powerful animal-a male, and I desired to have him as a match for a female which I had captured some time before. He was all the more valuable as I succeeded in taking him without the slightest injury to his skin.”