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Hidden in the grass, the hare froze as the shadow passed over it. Even with its little brain, still it knew that the shadow was not just some passing puff of cloud. It was too small, too quick, too purposeful. And, too, something in half-seen glimpse of the dark outline undulating over the uneven ground told of a raptor soaring above.

The hare was a naturally shy and timid creature, rarely venturing out into the meadows and pastures that covered the land. But this was spring. Instinct told the animal to find a mate. Instinct ruled. It could hardly help itself from gamboling about in search of a female.

It had found one, too, or thought it had. When he'd approached, though, the female had slapped him repeatedly to drive him away. Either she didn't want him for a mate or she wasn't quite ready yet. No matter to the hare, it would hang around until the female was in a more accommodating and receptive frame of mind. He could still smell her; she wasn't far. Time, it had seemed, was on his side.

But there was that shadow overhead.

* * *

The raptor's eyes were large and keen. With them she saw her lifetime mate, even at his scouting distance. Though she was the better hunter, still the pair took turns, scouting and driving, diving and killing. Now it was the mate's turn to scout.

From her high post she thought she'd seen prey, some smallish brown animal. A hare, she thought. Good eating . . . and the young hunger.

She'd turned in her flight then and lost sight of the thing. It couldn't have gone far though. There . . . Yes, there, it probably was, down there in the patch of grass. It was rare to find grass so thick now, what with the depredations of the goats. The raptor thought only of the advantages to hunting that lack of cover provided. It never considered what would happen when there was no grass anymore, nor anything else for the prey to eat. In this, at least, the raptor and its master—the man below on horseback with the outstretched arm and the thick, heavy glove—were in agreement: Let the future take care of itself; live for today.

The raptor—it was a golden eagle—gave a cry. Eeek . . . eeek . . . eeek. This told her mate all he needed to know.

* * *

The hare heard the cry and began to tremble with fright. Should it move from its hide and open itself up to attack from above? Should it stay there and risk being isolated, uncovered and eaten? And then there was the female to think about. Where was she? The male thought it could still smell her. Was she, too, hiding and trembling?

The male hare wasn't concerned with protecting the female. It would have gladly offered her up to the raptors' feast if only it had known how. Yes, the urge to mate was strong. But the urge to live was stronger still and another mate could probably be found. It would probably have offered up its own offspring rather than face the ripping talons and tearing beak.

* * *

The female gave another cry, subtly different from the first. She saw, with satisfaction, her mate swoop down with a terrorizing cry of his own. Aha . . . there's the prey! She swooped, exulting in her own ferocity.

How the contemptible thing tries to avoid me, to save its miserable life. No use, little one, for the God of Eagles has placed you here for me.

The eagle's feathers strained as they bent under the braking maneuver. Then came the satisfying strike of talons, the delightful spray of blood and the high pitched scream, so like a baby of one of the bipeds that dominated the ground here and guarded the goats that consumed the grass.

The female called to her mate. Eeek . . . ee-ee-eeek. Come and feast, my love.

* * *

Slowly the trembling subsided. The hare wasted no tears for the one that might have been its mate. Though the female was dead, the male would live, for the nonce. It would feed, even as the raptors fed on the corpse of the female.

How much better then, a man than a hare?

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