Redruff, the story of the don valley partridge

REDRUFF, The Story of the Don Valley Partridge

I

DOWN THE wooded slope of Taylor's Hill the Mother Partridge led her
brood; down toward the crystal brook that by some strange whim was
called Mud Creek. Her little ones were one day old but already quick on
foot, and she was taking them for the first time to drink.

She walked slowly, crouching low as she went, for the woods were full of
enemies. She was uttering a soft little cluck in her throat, a call
to the little balls of mottled down that on their tiny pink legs came
toddling after, and peeping softly and plaintively if left even a few
inches behind, and seeming so fragile they made the very chickadees look
big and coarse. There were twelve of them, but Mother Grouse watched
them all, and she watched every bush and tree and thicket, and the whole
woods and the sky itself. Always for enemies she seemed seeking — friends
were too scarce to be looked for — and an enemy she found. Away across
the level beaver meadow was a great brute of a fox. He was coming their
way, and in a few moments would surely wind them or strike their trail.
There was no time to lose.

'Krrr! Krrr!' (Hide!! Hide!) cried the mother in a low firm voice, and
the little bits of things, scarcely bigger than acorns and but a day
old, scattered far (a few inches) apart to hide. One dived under a leaf,
another between two roots, a third crawled into a curl of birchbark, a
fourth into a hole, and so on, till all were hidden but one who could
find no cover, so squatted on a broad yellow chip and lay very flat, and
closed his eyes very tight, sure that now he was safe from being seen.
They ceased their frightened peeping and all was still.

Mother Partridge flew straight toward the dreaded beast, alighted
fearlessly a few yards to one side of him, and then flung herself on the
ground, flopping as though winged and lame — oh, so dreadfully lame — and
whining like a distressed puppy. Was she begging for mercy — mercy from
a bloodthirsty, cruel fox? Oh, dear no! She was no fool. One often hears
of the cunning of the fox. Wait and see what a fool he is compared with
a mother-partridge. Elated at the prize so suddenly within his reach,
the fox turned with a dash and caught — at least, no, he didn't quite
catch the bird; she flopped by chance just a foot out of reach. He
followed with another jump and would have seized her this time surely,
but somehow a sapling came just between, and the partridge dragged
herself awkwardly away and under a log, but the great brute snapped his
jaws and hounded over the log, while she, seeming a trifle less lame,
made another clumsy forward spring and tumbled down a bank, and Reynard,
keenly following, almost caught her tail, but, oddly enough, fast as
he went and leaped, she still seemed just a trifle faster. It was most
extraordinary. A winged partridge and he, Reynard, the Swift-foot, had
not caught her in five minutes' racing. It was really shameful. But the
partridge seemed to gain strength as the fox put forth his, and after a
quarter of a mile race, racing that was somehow all away from Taylor's
Hill, the bird got unaccountably quite well, and, rising with a derisive
whirr, flew off through the woods leaving the fox utterly dumfounded
to realize that he had been made a fool of, and, worst of all, he now
remembered that this was not the first time he had been served this very
trick, though he never knew the reason for it.

Meanwhile Mother Partridge skimmed in a great circle and came by a