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ALBERT DORRINGTON

MURRA THE WILDCAT

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As published in
The Sunday Times, Perth, Australia, 16 Feb 1913

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-05-07
Produced by Terry Walker, Gary Meller and Roy Glashan

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TERROR of the great eagle's presence on the range was not confined to Marvin the sheepherder and his family. It had spread through the sun scorched canyon where Murra the wildcat lived. Murra herself preyed on the soft-breasted wood pigeons and squirrels that sometimes ventured near the rocky shelf where her two kittens played.

For all her beautiful coat and velvet-footed approach Murra was a clawing mass of venom and fight when the chance offered. Even the imperial panther was interested in Murra's movements when she chose to range the canyon "after hours." For even the lordliest of jungle fighters does not wantonly fly in the face of the howling little mother cat.

For two whole days Murra had filled the air with sounds of rage and grief. Marvin heard and speculated on the peculiar noises a sleepy man may hear before dawn. The weasels and foxes left the canyon for an airing, while the coyotes and civets went wide of the palpitating cries, preferring the cooler spaces of the big lake that was fed from the rain-channelled hills in the north.

Little Murra was unhappy. Her midnight lamentations threatened to empty the canyon of other furry dwellers, including a peace-abiding bear and family of squirrels.


THE cause of Murra's grief was not far to seek. Two dawns before, a swift black shadow with eagle head and claws had alighted with a roaring of wings on the rocky shelf. A kitten had vanished with the eagle into the blue of the hills. Murra had only just returned from her food hunt at the canyon head when the blood drops of her young one pelted down on the dawn-whitened grass.

Murra had a queer sensation of those wind-shaken drops of blood. She stayed where they fell, her twitching nose and eyes following the flight of the swift-vanishing raider.

One more kitten remained in the nest, and Murra went hungry for a whole day rather than leave her retreat. Then her mother-sense moved her to carry the soft, purring kitten to a lower shelf of rock where the stiff pines promised shelter from a too hurried descent of the enemy. She knew instinctively that the falcon-headed marauder had been driven from the lambs by the sheepherder's gun, and would seek food wherever it could be found in or about the canyon.

Murra lay still on the far edge of the sun-heated shelf, her paw out-stretched lazily to the gamboling kitten beside her. Slowly, imperceptibly, the memory of her lost offspring was leaving her. In a day or two all recollection of it would have passed.


A SCENT of lake water and pine drifted down the canyon. Wind that was swift with the breath of the dawn sky brushed the long blue grass below and drove a pair of copper-hued pheasants whirring to the cover of a thicket beyond.

A dark ball moved over the sun's eye and stooped nearer. The momentary flick of shadow caused Murra to look up. In a flash her basking playfulness changed to one of ferocious vigilance. The furry paws of the kitten stroking near her plump body rolled and twisted to no purpose. Murra's eye was hypnotised by the planing wings of the eagle as it sailed and inspected the canyon.

Then it fell nearer by a hundred feet, poised lazily for the millionth fraction of time and cleaved down in a bristling, flashing heap upon the sun-warmed ledge.

Murra had once been in the grip of a hungry kite when a point of difference arose concerning the ownership of a half-dead skunk. The kite was convinced instantly that cats were things invented by man for slicing and maiming the guileless birds of the air. And the kite had gone its way with a neck and wing that required skilled attention and advice.

But Murra was not prepared for the avalanche of feathers and bombarding wings that flung her, stunned and blinded, to the far corner of the shelf. The kitten, alive to her peril, rolled under Murra's body, away from the slashing wing blades and pouncing claws.

Murra saw in a flash that the pine tops were no bulwark against scouting eagles. She experienced the rending clasp of the taloned foot, and then a single buffet of the wings that cleared them of the ledge. And a moment later her flying fur was being blown through the sun spaces in the canyon below.

Murra felt the wild ascent, the sudden rush of cold air beneath. Pine ridge and canyon were shut out by driving mists. The grasp of the taloned foot bent her supple body until her teeth met in the warm, pulsating breast above.

The eagle seemed to shriek in mid-air as the great wings hung stiff to allow a fresh grip on Murra's body. A drop of blood big as a prune fell to earth.

Incidentally the taloned foot of the bird closed on the cat's throat. Murra stiffened under the stranglehold: the muscles of her puma-shaped jaws relaxed slightly, it seemed as if the eagle's foot had squeezed the sobbing strength from her body. The shock was purely momentary. Inch by inch the cat twisted from the talon clasp until her sinewy fore-paw struck the soft, downy breast above.

Whauk! Whauk!

The touch of the paw was like a bayonet thrust. The huge bird bristled under the shock and sought with incurved wings and beak to stun or rend the clawing little devil with the jaguar's hold.

The cat's neck was gripped by a single talon that strove to force her between the slamming wings. Her conflict with the kite had impressed upon her the necessity of lying close-hauled to a bird's breast when the wings were sabering the air. Against the pressure of the talon she gained a sudden leverage with a kicking hind paw that dug and scarified the shrinking feathered bosom.

Whauk! Whauk!

The wings drew in sharply as the hind claws gave strength to Murra's panther-like hold. A cloud of feathers blew downward, tiny puff balls of gossamer over the wind-shaken pine tops.

The cat experienced a slackening of the talon about her throat, but only for a breath-giving space. The wings began their trip hammer blows. But Murra had found the warm white flesh that inched and throbbed with each beat of the eagle's heart.

Whauk! Whauk!

Wings and talon now sought to make piecemeal of the cat. The beaked head smote down, but failed to reach the close-hauled fur ball beneath. In another majestic instant the pair became a bristling, shrieking circle in mid-air, with the placid surface of the lake swinging nearer, nearer.

A flock of wild duck rose in alarm and trailed away to the south; it was as if a miniature tornado had invaded the morning calm.

Whauk! Whauk!

The pair whirled down a sheer hundred feet. Murra knew that the eagle was striving with all its swift strength to shake her loose and then would follow and slash her to death as she fell.

The cat's response was a howl of pure delight. It was clinging between talon and breast, its teeth closing deeper and deeper at each swerve of the eagle's body and wings. Once upon a time she had bitten the foot of a coyote and had found it lean and hard, but this quivering bird flesh that covered the wildly beating heart was easier to rend than a prairie fowl's.

Wind and blood scoured Murra's eyes as they flogged down. The eagle's wings had lost their fury: they sagged and planed spasmodically, the great neck straining upward as though to escape the rending teeth at her breast.

Whauk! Whauk!

The lake below reflected their flurrying, down-scrambling shadows. Big crimson drops reddened the air. Murra saw the water leap nearer. Yet... she must hold to the last, for even now with air space beneath them the wings might still saber and kill her if once she released her hold.

They rolled another hundred feet, breast to breast now, the cat huddled close in as the huge wings collapsed and then thrashed wildly in a blinding mist of spray and water.

They struck the lake near a clump of willows on the left bank, the cat still worrying the soft warm space between the wings and the heart.


THE sheepherder stared and blinked at the ruffled surface of the lake until he detected a wet feline shape emerge from the water, near the willows, and crawl away slowly into some cottonwoods on the right.

"Shu! You can't kill those cats," he grumbled.

Later, when the sun's red eye stared over the canyon, a dead eagle drifted out leisurely into the deep silence of the lake.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.