This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
Sulphur-yellow, gall-green shafts mingle with the scarlet of the sunrise, and slowly wrest a large quadrangular farmhouse from the cloudy October dawn's foul wet mists.
Outside the cow-stall, an old-fashioned milk-jar with its narrow neck appears out of the grey dawn. The milk-woman uses it every morning to take a pint of milk home to her children. A few traces of milk still cling to the bottom—enough, at any rate, to tempt a sweet-tooth!
The woman is inside milking, when Red comes sneaking along the barn, catches sight of the jar, sticks her nose in, and smells distinctly the milk on the bottom. She rests her forepaws on the round, bulging body of the vessel, and tries hard to push her head through the narrow neck.
After several attempts she manages, by turning her head vigorously from side to side, to slide it in, her ears pressed tightly back and her furry cheeks brushing the smooth earthenware.
She has succeeded—and she licks the jar cleaner than it has ever been before since the day it was made.
Then she prepares to retreat. But now, suddenly, she cannot get her head out; her thick neck and gristly ears are wedged fast! She becomes flurried . . . and instead of trying to wriggle out gently, she begins to tug and wrestle; with the result that she fixes her frightful mask more firmly still. She topples over on her side, and rolls about clawing dementedly at the stone cobbles—until at last she regains her feet and staggers blindly into the yard.
The weird figure is soon seen from one of the windows. Now they've got her at last!
They recognize her at once—so a sack is soon fetched and slipped over her hind parts. For now she shall be drowned!
Just then a rag and bone man turns into the yard.
Once or twice a year he comes and buys old rags and bottles, and all sorts of worthless rubbish.
The fellow at once notices the cat's shining fox-red coat—and the quick-witted farmer conceives a brilliant idea. The fellow has cheated him so many times; now he shall be paid back in his own coin!
With a cautious tap of the hammer he releases the cat from the jar. . . .
"Do you want to buy a splendid mouser?" "You bet I do!" replies the ragged one . . . it was just what he was looking for.
The farmer piled on the agony. "Yes, she's a record killer! You will scarcely believe it, but just before you came into the yard, she nearly strangled herself capturing a mouse which had dived into this milk-jar!" The rag and bone man was completely taken in; he bought the cat eagerly and immediately.
He put Red in his sack, and the two thieves left the yard together.