This is the brief chronicle of the last day of the chief ruler of the feathered harem. He had become too cocky and we decided to give him a taste of the oven. The mistress and one of the girls took advantage of the quiet hour which comes before the boiling of the tea kettle to saunter out and “airt” him into a prison shed. But he speedily proved himself of the ostrich breed and sped across a 30-acre field with yard-long strides.
Ashamed to come home defeated to the jeers of the men folks, the women tucked up their skirts and sprinted as they had not done since they were 12 years old. The children, excited by a fearful joy, came out to join in the chase but at the sight of the striding bony legs and long stretched out neck, apparently making straight for them, they turned shrieking in terror and made for the shelter of a whin bush as fast as their tiny clogs could carry them, Brown Eyes tumbling an involuntary somersault over Blue Eyes right into the prickly bush where he roared lustily.
Just over the knowe could be seen some stragglers from the house grinning in aggravatingly unsympathetic manner as Mr Rooster, with desperate strides and a clumsy flichter took cover in a mile long ghyll and was hidden from sight.
It was an exhausted family of women and weans that gathered in round the tea table and drank in courage and strength from the fragrant cup. It was agreed that the latest position of the run away should be notified to the army of cowboys.
The news acted upon them like an electric shock. They could not wait to empty their mugs and spread themselves swiftly and warily among the dark bushes at the entrance to the ghyll. In an incredibly short time they returned in triumph with their captive and one of them, trained I fear in an unscientific school, twisted its neck and flung the body in the joiner’s shop. Shortly afterwards, the master, going in for some tool, found it invincible stalking on the bench, holding up his head as if about to crow. The laugh was now against the clever cow boy who was willing to yield a more skilful thumb to put the neck out of joint.
But the spirit was still unbroken. Two days later, when the body was gently simmering in a pan by the fire, a servant, lifted the lid to see how it was getting on. The water gave a sudden bubble and lo the thing seemed to jump bodily into the fire. The blaze flared up setting the girl’s hair on fire and the children fled shrieking for mammie. By a miracle, no one was seriously burned. Parboiled it was felt safer to have him dismembered joint from joint and packed into a pie.
How it came about, no one could lucidly explain but that pie over-turned in the oven and filled the whole house with the odour of burning fat. When at length the pie was placed on the table, the children regarded it apprehensively. They remembered the rhyme, “When the pie was opened” and they prepared for flight but the bird’s defiance was exhausted and he permitted his flesh to be eaten by his pursuers and his bones to be crunched by dogs.
I noticed Brown Eyes to-day timidly edging away from the successor of that terrible bird and eye him with a thoughtful look in which fear was mingled with awe.