This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
Such a short-legged little cat was surely never seen before! She seemed rather to crawl and glide over the ground than to walk. She had inherited her mother's disproportionately large hare-like ears, and had a far keener sense of hearing than any of the other kittens. The slightest sound brought her head up with a jerk, her ears directed instantly in the exact direction of the sound, while cunning and deceit flashed into her usually trustful eyes. Hers was a quiet, thoughtful nature, which apparently never waxed very enthusiastic over anything; it was as if she pondered carefully every step she took!
She could sit still for hours at a time, with her tail curled carefully round her neatly gathered paws, and watch the doings of the others. An enormous degree of patience and the ability to wait characterized her nature; they all thought she slept, but it was not so; she saw and heard everything.
She often crept round the foot of the mound and down along the ditch and fence—and whenever she found a little hole in the earth which looked as if it were inhabited, she would sit down and watch, if necessary for hours. This monotonous waiting for game suited her nature perfectly; however bad the state of the ground or of the weather, it made no difference to her—she bore it all with good-natured indifference.
Lying thus in wait was a treat to her. Her sense of hearing was so keen that she found sufficient entertainment in listening to the subterranean rumblings of her prey. Minute linked itself to minute with lightning speed; and although to an onlooker it seemed that nothing in the world was happening, in reality she was experiencing thrills of anticipation all the time.
She was also an expert at catching dragon-flies, although indeed in another manner than brother Big. She could, as it were, hypnotize them down to her. When a dragon-fly was performing acrobatics above her head, she just sat still and stared and stared, until presently the insect, whether attracted by her colouring or by her eyes, came so close that she had only to put out a paw and knock it down.
One evening, while the setting sun bathes the burial-mound in its red splendour, and the giant stones shine as if coated with pink enamel, she creeps out to the field.
The windows of the farm flash with light, and over the white, bulging summer clouds falls a scarlet, claret-bordered veil. Everywhere she goes she hears the munching of grass: horses and cattle are feeding after the day's exertion. . . .
She peeps to the right; to the left—and listens.
Then sits down softly—and listens, listens. . . . Is there anything? No! Then forward, silently forward. . . .
With crouching loins and curved tail, but with chest raised and neck stretched high, she writhes through the grass, as if treading on flames.
A sudden halt—a careful investigation! No; false alarm again! And Grey creeps along until she finds another mouse-hole. . . .
The twilight falls, and the great black may-bugs begin to wind their sound-threads round her. A horse has dropped some manure close to where she sits—the mice like making their holes under that!
The dike-chat flutters past with its young. The little grey birds are swallowed up in the darkness, leaving behind only a flicker from their white tails.
The slim young hare hops with supple grace across the field, stopping to sniff at each root and plant. . . .
Grey sits patiently before her mouse-hole, listening to the faint scratching of its owner's feet deep down in the earth. The minutes race; her mind is utterly absorbed with the one thrilling subject—mouse!
Presently a distant rumble rises to her ears; grains of sand are rolling down the tunnel. The sound, which no human ear could hope to distinguish, increases in volume until it culminates in a faint flap: a baby mouse with thin white legs and a tail three times as long as its body crouches curled up at the entrance!
Without straightening its body, it begins at once to propel itself forward through the grass-stems, looking for all the world like a living bullet on legs. . . .
Now the noise of its running has stopped . . . the mouse swarms up and down the straws, so that they whine like violin-strings in the cat's ears. Her soul is a sound board on which each whine impinges, magnified and vibrating. ... In the most approved fashion she creeps upon her prey, and, in spite of a clumsy spring, manages to nail it down under her paw. . . .
It was Grey-kitten's first mouse; and she felt she would never tire of gazing at it. Her tail wriggled without ceasing and her eyes shone with delight ... to think that those tiny mouse-legs could make such a frightful to-do!
She could not bring herself to eat it, but must keep it to rejoice over on her way home. Every few minutes she stopped, dropped the luckless victim in front of her, and began to play with it.
And, like Big, she was stupid enough to appear with it before the whole family; even going so far as to throw it down on the ground for general admiration.
She paid dearly for that! She never did it again!