This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
Grey Puss went straight home to her kittens, and that by the main road.
No sneaking along the ditches or crawling through the furrows, as so often before when dragging her spoil. No, today she came empty-handed, alas! besides being battered and breathless. She ran with all her might!
A great reception awaited her.
A whole long night and the half of a day she had been away—what a relief when she appears; thank goodness she has come back at last!
Big, the strong man of the litter, rushes ecstatically to meet her, and flings both paws round her neck, dragging her tired, wet head from side to side until he nearly kills her with joy. The other kittens run straight to her udders, each trying to drink the most milk in the shortest time.
Quite bewildered, but without further thought of her experience, Grey Puss sits down and gathers the little kittens in her arms, while Big, filled with holy zeal, begins licking her wet black and damp, bedraggled coat with his tongue.
It is true that as a rule a cat washes her kitten, but with Grey Puss things are reversed: Big makes his mother's toilet daily—and is, moreover, so generous with his tongue that he washes all the kittens too.
And now on this occasion, when his kind mamma—besides arriving depressed and without her customary miauw-signal—has come home soaking wet, the son's energy knows no bounds.
Unfortunately, although going over her twice, he finishes washing his mother before the children have completed their drinking operations; and so is compelled to find another outlet for his exuberance. He rushes round and round the room at full speed. . . .
The fact of the whole family being in his path does not deter him in the least. He jumps recklessly into their midst, and "takes off" again with a long jump from his mother's forehead.
Later, upon making the discovery that two of the little ones have become separated from the rest, he thinks at once of something new: he plays "catch mouse" with them. . . .
In a flash he has captured Black under one paw and White under the other, and holds them pressed down ruthlessly to the ground.
Black spits and bites recklessly at his captor, but the good-natured little White only cries miserably. A moment later Big gets a good box on the ears from the old cat's paw. He was so very robust—just like his father!
After that day Grey Puss never dared venture into the farmyard, not even by night; she considered herself banished once for all. . . .
She became a total outcast, spitting and swearing at man's approach. "Fiew!" she would hiss, crouching back, as if pulled from behind; and then turn and vanish in a flash.
She forgot her happy days of kittenhood and went back to nature and independence, her claws turned against every living being.
It was not an easy path she had chosen. The work of catching and killing at times entailed almost insuperable difficulties.
After all, what wild-beast attributes were needed to capture a little half-tame mouse or pigeon in a barn; to sneak in and lick up milk from the stall; to dig out bloater-heads from the manure-heap? No, now she had to begin all over again and practise the most elementary things: to creep noiselessly forward, make her spring, and disappear like lightning.
She adopted the method the retriever employs to carry small birds, and applied it to mice. As soon as the rodents were caught and killed, she arranged them in a row on the ground; and then packed them side by side in her mouth, so that only the heads and tails hung out.
One morning she took a hare home to the young ones, and, a few days later, a full-grown weasel—tangible proofs that she had learnt now to overpower and kill the most refractory opponents.
After a short time she learned even to bring down the swallow as it swept with dazzling speed over the earth.