This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
The fugitive little mother-cat had brought her kittens under cover just in time. That night a storm broke loose and thunder crashed incessantly, accompanying heavy showers of rain. Warm, heavy drops streamed down in bucketfuls; the earth drank until the crevices in its broken crust were filled to overflowing, while a slimy, bottomless fluid filled all holes in the roads.
But not a drop found its way down to this century-old sepulchre—the resting-place was too well built for that!
Towards morning the tempest died down. The June sun slowly swept the warm, bluish haze from the landscape, and poured its white shining beams over the fertile green corn-fields. Strong, delicious odours, held in bondage by the mist, are suddenly released, and float through the air in small, scented clouds.
It was too wet for a cat to venture out; better wait a little and let the sun dry things a bit!
In the farthest corner, where the darkness is deepest, Grey Puss is sitting. She relaxes her muscular body completely on the leafy couch, and stretches her forepaws lazily in front of her. The entire kitten flock is lying in her lap.
Since daybreak she has had such a nice quiet time; the others have all been sleeping soundly, tumbled in a heap. But now peace is at an end; the dear children are all awake, and almost killing her in their exuberant joy.
Not even Tiny spares her, but seizes the opportunity of pursuing the exhausted milk-springs. Lying on his back, and using his hind legs as levers, he toboggans in short slides from one nipple to another. It couldn't be true that there was not a drop left!
From the playful horde arise hissing and spitting, punctuated by occasional dull bumps as they miss their footing and tumble on the floor. All at once Grey Puss gets up from her corner, walks out into the middle, and throws herself down in the thin streak of light which fumbles its way through the roof. Look out—now she is going to play their favourite game; now they are in for a treat! They shall play "catch mouse" with the tip of her tail.
Comfortably stretched on her back with all four legs wide apart, she lies perfectly still, not moving a limb, not a hair. Presently the end-most tip of her tail begins very, very slowly to wriggle to and fro; then it falls with a firm little thump on the floor.
It is the signal for the game to begin! Immediately the tiny, living colours surround the tail. And in turn, usually two at a time, they make their attempts.
The supple tail-end writhes and squirms at lightning speed over the floor, the kittens' eyes following its twists and bends in fascinated silence. Suddenly it disappears from sight; there is a breathless pause . . . then the furry tip slowly emerges from under the heap of leaves. They strike at it with their paws, rush at it, catch hold of it, and—if it unfor-tunately escapes—rush upon it again. They bite it, clutch it, shake it. . . . At last they have secured a firm grip. The tables are suddenly turned! Now it is the tail which grips and shakes and rocks them to and fro in the air; they are fighting with a real, live, reckless enemy of equal strength, and are permitted to experience the joy of victory.
No spitting or growling is heard; all takes place in dead silence—only the smacks of the tail and the bumps of the paws betray the presence of living beings. They are like shadows tumbling about. . . .
The game goes on in half-hour spells—un-til exhaustion overtakes first one, then another, and sleep again sweeps them together into a lifeless heap.
Now Grey Puss gets up and makes for the entrance—it is her turn to play "catch mouse."