This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
THE crofter lived down by the marsh, where he owned some fields with blackish-brown soil, which he was ploughing for the autumn sowing. . . .
The ploughing progressed spasmodically; for he had only one horse, and that a small one, that had to stop every few minutes for breath.
"Get along!" said the man to it lethargically. . . . "Gee up!"
But the horse declined; it considered that it should be allowed a little longer respite.
"Gee up!" came the order again—and now the man took, hold of the reins which hung loose on the horse's back.
The nag continued to breathe heavily. The whip had to be produced.
"Get along! . . . Gee up!"
The old crock lunged out behind and gave a hop into the air—the preliminaries to starting.
At last they got going again. . . . Slowly, very slowly, the ploughshare pushed up the wet earth. The horse pulled itself together and strained at the harness until the traces quivered; it lunged with its legs and threw its weight forward, making the plough go faster and faster, so that the little man had to hurry to keep pace, and once or twice had to run.
Things went like a house afire for about twenty yards; then the horse stopped abruptly —time for another rest!
"First-rate!" thought the crofter—and rested also.
Thus, each perfectly understanding the other, they ploughed away patiently the whole day long. . . .
One evening the crofter stopped earlier than usual. . . . The heavens were ablaze and the horizon seethed with flame; the last remnants of day were being cremated!
Having settled his assistant comfortably in the stall, he set out over the hill to a meadow where he had grazing rights.
A little later he appeared again leading a small red cow-calf, his bent back and bowed legs silhouetted gnome-like against the sunset.
The weather was too cold now, besides being too rough and stormy, to leave young cattle out after dark!
After bolting the calf in, he stands a moment outside his door and reads from a scrap of newspaper. Suddenly he notices a slight movement at his feet, and, looking down, sees a little white kitten with arched back and lifted tail rubbing itself affectionately against his wooden clogs.
"Well I never! Where did you spring from?"
White becomes nervous at hearing a human voice and hops away a little. The crofter bends down and makes coaxing noises to her.
She comes nearer again, and now she feels a hand grasp her round the body—how deliciously it tickles! . . .
The little farmer's house, which formed one with the stall and barn, was overrun with mice. Of an evening when he sat reading they would often come peeping over the edge of the table and crawl over his trousers.
He never told how they behaved when he was in bed!
At intervals he brought the farm-cat into the rooms; but it never had the faintest notion of what was required, and rushed about terrified, knocking everything down until it was let out again.
White-kitten, therefore, was not unwelcome!
She behaved at once as if she had lived in a house all her life! She learned to chase after mice on the chest-of-drawers without overturning the shell-mounted frame containing the photograph of the man in his soldier's uniform, and to catch flies on the table without stepping into the dripping-dish or tea-mug.
She was industrious, affectionate, and anxious to please, besides which, she knew when to keep out of the way when not wanted. In fact, she behaved in every respect just as the slave nature in man prefers his dependents to behave!
The mice soon disappeared completely! Not because they were captured, but because they could not endure the constant persecution. . . .
And White was named the "demon mouser!"