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by [?]

Adolf was still only halfgrown.

“Cats!” said my mother.”Hideous detestable animals, why dopeople harbour them!”

But Adolf was becoming too much for her. He dropped too manypills. And suddenly to hear him clumping downstairs when she wasalone in the house was startling. And to keep him from the doorwas impossible. Cats prowled outside. It was worse than having achild to look after.

Yet we would not have him shut up. He became more lusty, morecallous than ever. He was a strong kicker, and many a scratch onface and arms did we owe to him. But he brought his own doom onhimself. The lace curtains in the parlour—my mother was ratherproud of them—fell on to the floor very full. One of Adolf’s joyswas to scuffle wildly through them as though through some foamyundergrowth. He had already torn rents in them.

One day he entangled himself altogether. He kicked, hewhirled round in a mad nebulous inferno. He screamed—and broughtdown the curtain-rod with a smash, right on the best belovedpelargonium, just as my mother rushed in. She extricated him, butshe never forgave him. And he never forgave either. A heartlesswildness had come over him.

Even we understood that he must go. It was decided, after along deliberation, that my father should carry him back to thewild-woods. Once again he was stowed into the great pocket of thepit-jacket.

“Best pop him i’ th’ pot,” said my father, who enjoyed raisingthe wind of indignation.

And so, next day, our father said that Adolf, set down on theedge of the coppice, had hopped away with utmost indifference,neither elated nor moved. We heard it and believed. But many, many were the heartsearchings. How would the otherrabbitsreceive him?Would they smell his tameness, his humanizeddegradation, and rend him?My mother pooh-poohed the extravagantidea.

However, he was gone, and we were rather relieved. My fatherkept an eye open for him. He declared that several times, passingthe coppice in the early morning, he had seen Adolf peeping throughthe nettlestalks. He had called him, in an odd, high-voiced,cajoling fashion. But Adolf had not responded. Wildness gains sosoon upon its creatures. And they become so contemptuous then ofour tame presence. So it seemed to me. I myself would go to theedge of the coppice, and call softly. I myself would imaginebright eyes between the nettle-stalks, flash of a white, scornfultail past the bracken. That insolent white tail, as Adolf turnedhis flank on us!It reminded me always of a certain rude gesture,and a certain unprintable phrase, which may not even be suggested.

But when naturalists discuss the meaning of the white rabbit’stail, that rude gesture and still ruder phrase always come to mymind. Naturalists say that the rabbit shows his white tail inorder to guide his young safely after him, as a nurse-maid’s flyingstrings are the signal to her toddling charges to follow on. Hownice and naïve!I only know that my Adolf wasn’t naïve. He used to whisk his flank at me, push his white feather in my eye,and say Merde![note: Merde!: Shit! (French)]It’s a rude word—but one which Adolf wasalways semaphoring at me, flag-wagging it with all the derision ofhis narrow haunches.

That’s a rabbit all over—insolence, and the white flag ofspiteful derision. Yes, and he keeps his flag flying to the bitterend, sporting, insolent little devil that he is. See him runningfor his life. Oh, how his soul is fanned to an ecstasy of fright,a fugitive whirl-wind of panic. Gone mad, he throws the worldbehind him, with astonishing hind legs. He puts back his head andlays his ears on his sides and rolls the white of his eyes in sheerecstatic agony of speed. He knows the awful approach behind him:bullet or stoat. He knows!He knows, his eyes are turned backalmost into his head. It is agony. But it is also ecstasy. Ecstasy!See the insolent white flag bobbing. He whirls on themagic wind of terror. All his pent-up soul rushes into agonizedelectric emotion of fear. He flings himself on, like a fallingstar swooping into extinction. White heat of the agony offear. And at the same time, bob! bob! bob! goes the white tail,merde! merde! merde!it says to the pursuer. The rabbitcan’t help it. In his utmost extremity he still flings the insultat the pursuer. He is the inconquerable fugitive, the indomitablemeek. No wonder the stoat becomes vindictive.