This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
One autumn evening, as huge, billowy clouds are drifting across the orange-gold western sky, Big-cat wakes in his lair and feels the call to action. The noise of day has died from the fields, and the cows with their watching eyes have gone to rest for the night. . . .
He slinks across naked, deserted fields, where the wild camomile lifts its cheerful face above the white-grey stubble. Like all great hunters, he feels the need of a constant change of hunting-grounds; hence his journey through the cold, dry September night, lighted by the pale, shining, half-grown moon.
Over hill and along hawthorn hedge he hurries; catches a lark in her nest, and a mouse by a daring leap from a post—and at daybreak lies down for his day's rest behind a yellow grass-tuft in a dry, secluded gravel-pit.
Towards noon he is awakened by the sound of paws in the shingle. He should just have remained lying still among the grass—which was grey-yellow and withered black in colour, and not unlike his own marking—but he forgot himself and ran.
The big, spotted hound got quite a shock; he stopped for a moment and looked back. Two men with guns, one of whom was "Uncas' " master, were approaching, talking together and puffing at their pipes.
Uncas seized his opportunity and tore after the cat.
The men began shouting and whistling; but as far as the dog was concerned the die was cast. Nothing could stop him now— away he went at a wild gallop!
Just ahead, the river flows in a long, graceful curve, its cold, black waters searing the yellow autumnal landscape.
Big knows the river well; he knows, too, that not even his jump can clear it. He therefore makes for the wooden bridge.
The main road crosses the bridge. . . .
When the cat is half-way over, he feels the woodwork vibrate in a curious manner beneath his feet; he sees a spitting, humming, machine-animal whizzing towards him. . . .
Just behind him is the dog, barking excitedly. . . .
For a moment Big-cat hesitates; then, see-ing no alternative, leaps bravely between the iron railings and falls with a splash into the river.
He sinks like a stone through the water, but the moment it closes over his head he commences kicking instinctively with his legs. At last he gets air again; he sees the sky above him. He swims mechanically—but believes that he is running through the water. . . .
The motor-cycle rushed on over the bridge —the dog crossed its path; a howl, a crash, oaths and curses. . . .
Meanwhile a dripping, bedraggled cat galloped away across the fields. He shook himself, and ran, and then shook himself again. . . . He has managed to come out on top as usual!
He kept on at full speed until he reached the boundaries of a large, private wood some distance away, by which time his fur was quite dry from his exertions. After several vain attempts he succeeded in scaling the tall, wooden palisade surrounding the wood, and, plunging in among the trees, soon came to a tumble-down game-keeper's hut, in the loft of which he remained in comfort for a week.
From here he made excursions in all directions ; but the old willow stump and the long, winding hawthorn hedge were no longer in sight to remind him to return, and with the disappearance of these and other landmarks the threads that bound him to his home snapped for ever.
He drifted farther and farther away out into the wide world, and finished his career as wild cat in a distant deer-park.