Books > Old Books > The Plumed Serpent (1926)


Page 229

CHAPTER XIV - Home to Sayula

`What's the brat got?' she said to herself, gazing at the moving little figure within the great light.
Dangling from his tiny outstretched arm, held by the webbed toe, head down and feebly flapping its out-sinking wings, was a bird, a water-fowl. It was a black mud-chick with a white bar across the under-wing, one of the many dark fowl that bobbed in little flocks along the edge of the sun-stunned lake.
The urchin marched stiffly down to the water's edge, holding the upside-down bird, that seemed big as an eagle in the tiny fist. Another brat came scuttling after. The two infant men paddled a yard into the warm, lapping water, under the great light, and gravely stooping, like old men, set the fowl on the water. It floated, but could hardly paddle. The lift of the ripples moved it. The urchins dragged it in, like a rag, by a string tied to its leg.
So quiet, so still, so dark, like tiny, chubby little infant men, the two solemn figures with the rag of a bird !
Kate turned uneasily to her book, her nerves on edge. She heard the splash of a stone. The bird was on the water, but apparently the string that held it by the leg was tied to a stone. It lay wavering, a couple of yards out. And the two little he-men, with sober steadfastness and a quiet, dark lust, were picking up stones, and throwing them with the fierce Indian aim at the feebly fluttering bird: right down upon it. Like a little warrior stood the mite in the red rag, his arm upraised, to throw the stone with all his might down on the tethered bird.
In a whiff, Kate was darting down the beach.
`Ugly boys! Ugly children! Go! Go away, ugly children,. ugly boys !' she said on one breath, with quiet intensity.
The round-headed dot gave her one black glance from his manly eyes, then the two of them scuttled up the beach into invisibility.
Kate went into the water, and lifted the wet, warm bird. The bit of coarse fibre-string hung from its limp, greenish, waterfowl's ankle. It feebly tried to bite her.
She rapidly stepped out of the water and stood in the sun to unfasten the string. The bird was about as big as a pigeon. It lay in her hand with the absolute motionlessness of a caught wild thing.

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