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The Weasel
by [?]

Then I regretted that I had broken into his castle at all; that I had not contented myself with coming day after day and counting his mice as he carried them in, and continued my observation upon him each succeeding year. Now the rent in his fortress could not be repaired, and he would doubtless move away, as he most certainly did, for his doors, which I had closed with soil, remained unopened after winter had set in.

But little seems known about the intimate private lives of any of our lesser wild creatures. It was news to me that any of the weasels lived in dens in this way, and that they stored up provision against a day of need. This species was probably the little ermine, eight or nine inches long, with tail about five inches. It was still in its summer dress of dark chestnut-brown above and whitish below.

It was a mystery where the creature had put the earth which it must have removed in digging its den; not a grain was to be seen anywhere, and yet a bushel or more must have been taken out. Externally, there was not the slightest sign of that curious habitation there under the ground. The entrance was hidden beneath dry leaves, and was surrounded by little passages and flourishes between the leaves and the ground. If any of my readers find a weasel’s den, I hope they will be wiser than I was, and observe his goings and comings without disturbing his habitation.

A few years later I had another adventure with a weasel that had its den in a bank on the margin of a muck swamp in the same neighborhood. We had cleared and drained and redeemed the swamp and made it into a garden, and I had built me a lodge there. The weasel’s hunting-grounds, where doubtless he had been wont to gather his supply of mice, had been destroyed, and he had “got even” with me by preying upon my young chickens. Night after night the number of chickens grew less, till one day we chanced to see the creature boldly chasing one of the larger fowls along the road near the henhouse. His career was cut short then and there by one of the men. We were then ignorant of the den in the bank a few yards away. The next season my chickens were preyed upon again; they were killed upon the roost, and their half-eaten bodies were found under the floor. One night I was awakened about midnight by that loud, desperate cry which a barn fowl gives when suddenly seized upon its roost. Was I dreaming, or was that a cry of murder from my chickens? I seized my lantern, and with my dog rushed out to where a pair of nearly grown roosters passed the nights upon a low stump. They were both gone, and the action of the dog betrayed the fresh scent of some animal. But we could get no clue to the chickens or their enemy. I felt sure that only one of the fowls had been seized, and that the other had dashed away wildly in the darkness, which proved to be the case. The dead chicken was there under the edge of the stump, where I found it in the morning, and its companion came forth unhurt during the day. Thenceforth the chickens, big and little, were all shut up in the henhouse at night. On the third day the appetite of the weasel was keen again, and it boldly gave chase to a chicken before our eyes. I was standing in my porch with my dog, talking with my neighbor and his wife, who, with their dog, were standing in the road a few yards in front of me. A chicken suddenly screamed in the bushes up behind the rocks just beyond my friends. Then it came rushing down over the rocks past them, flying and screaming, closely pursued by a long, slim red animal, that seemed to slide over the rocks like a serpent. Its legs were so short that one saw only the swift, gliding motion of its body. Across the road into the garden, within a yard of my friends, went the pursued and the pursuer, and into the garden rushed I and my dog. The weasel seized the chicken by the wing, and was being dragged along by the latter in its effort to escape, when I arrived upon the scene. With a savage glee I had not felt for many a day, I planted my foot upon the weasel. The soft muck underneath yielded, and I held him without hurting him. He let go his hold upon the chicken and seized the sole of my shoe in his teeth. Then I reached down and gripped him with my thumb and forefinger just back of the ears, and lifted him up, and looked his impotent rage in the face. What gleaming eyes, what an array of threatening teeth, what reaching of vicious claws, what a wriggling and convulsed body! But I held him firmly. He could only scratch my hand and dart fire from his electric, bead-like eyes. In the mean time my dog was bounding up, begging to be allowed to have his way with the weasel. But I knew what he did not: I knew that in anything like a fair encounter the weasel would get the first hold, would draw the first blood, and hence probably effect his escape. So I carried the animal, writhing and scratching, to a place in the road removed from any near cover, and threw him violently upon the ground, hoping thereby so to stun and bewilder him that the terrier could rush in and crush him before he recovered his wits. But I had miscalculated; the blow did indeed stun and confuse him, but he was still too quick for the dog, and had him by the lip like an electric trap. Nip lifted up his head and swung the weasel violently about in the air, trying to shake him off, uttering a cry of rage and pain, but did not succeed in loosening the animal’s hold for some moments. When he had done so, and attempted to seize him a second time, the weasel was first again, but quickly released his hold and darted about this way and that, seeking cover. Three or four times the dog was upon him, but found him each time too hot to be held. Seeing that the creature was likely to escape, I set my foot upon him again, and made a finish of him.