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The Diary of a Goose Girl

Chapter 8
July 13th.
I like to watch the Belgian hares eating their trifolium or pea- pods or grass; graceful,
gentle things they are, crowding about Mr. Heaven, and standing prettily, not greedily, on
their hind legs, to reach for the clover, their delicate nostrils and whiskers all a- quiver
with excitement.
As I look out of my window in the dusk I can see one of the mothers galloping across the
enclosure, the soft white lining of her tail acting as a beacon-light to the eight infant hares
following her, a quaint procession of eight white spots in it glancing line. In the darkest
night those baby creatures could follow their mother through grass or hedge or thicket,
and she would need no warning note to show them where to flee in case of danger. "All
you have to do is to follow the white night-light that I keep in the lining of my tail," she
says, when she is giving her first maternal lectures; and it seems a beneficent provision of
Nature. To be sure, Mr. Heaven took his gun and went out to shoot wild rabbits to-day,
and I noted that he marked them by those same self- betraying tails, as they scuttled
toward their holes or leaped toward the protecting cover of the hedge; so it does not
appear whether Nature is on the side of the farmer or the rabbit . . .
There is as much comedy and as much tragedy in poultry life as anywhere, and already I
see rifts within lutes. We have in a cage a French gentleman partridge married to a
Hungarian lady of defective sight. He paces back and forth in the pen restlessly, anything
but content with the domestic fireside. One can see plainly that he is devoted to the
Boulevards, and that if left to his own inclinations he would never have chosen any
spouse but a thorough Parisienne.
The Hungarian lady is blind of one eye, from some stray shot, I suppose. She is
melancholy at all times, and occasionally goes so far as to beat her head against the wire
netting. If liberated, Mr. Heaven says that her blindness would only expose her to death at
the hands of the first sportsman, and it always seems to me as if she knows this, and is
ever trying to decide whether a loveless marriage is any better than the tomb.
Then, again, the great, grey gander is, for some mysterious reason, out of favour with the
entire family. He is a noble and amiable bird, by far the best all-round character in the
flock, for dignity of mien and large-minded common-sense. What is the treatment
vouchsafed to this blameless husband and father? One that puts anybody out of sorts with
virtue and its scant rewards. To begin with, the others will not allow him to go into the
pond. There is an organised cabal against it, and he sits solitary on the bank, calm and
resigned, but, naturally, a trifle hurt. His favourite retreat is a tiny sort of island on the
edge of the pool under the alders, where with his bent head, and red-rimmed philosophic
eyes he regards his own breast and dreams of happier days. When the others walk into the
country twenty-three of them keep together, and Burd Alane (as I have named him from
 
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