White stubble, too, had obscured the firm, clean line of his chin and throat. The veins of his face were injected, and his features were shot with heavy wrinkles. He rode with his back arched and his chin sunk upon his breast, for the old, time-rotted body was worn out, but in his bright, alert eyes there was always a trace of the gallant tenant who lived in the shattered house.
He made a second trip to secure a great armful of the powder-dry time-rotted core of the stump. His third expedition carried him a little farther afield to a small sapling which he could barely make out through the night. He bent down the top of the little tree and snapped off about five feet of its length. This in turn he brought to the shelter. He stopped short here, frozen with amazement.
More than once he had smashed time-rotted fences in this manner, but he found that these posts were new and well tamped and the boards were strongly nailed. He gave up that effort and went about looking for a gate. Gates were not hard to find. A gate is that part of a fence under which many tracks and many scents go; it is also a section which swings a little and rattles annoyingly in a wind.
But there were other tenants lodging in its cavernous and time-rotted trunk. These were mice, well fed, positive balls of fat, but not one of them had a foot. They had all been mutilated. The owl had nipped their feet off with his beak, whilst feeding and fostering them with wheat from neighbouring stacks. It must be confessed that this bird had reasoned.