This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
Black made one of his first expeditions at the time when the wheat was just high enough to hide him. He sauntered defiantly through it, caring not a jot whether the ground beneath were wet or dry. Long, dark cloud-shadows came hurtling along and surrounded him; the bluish-green wheat became black, making it impossible to distinguish him as he crawled through its depths.
But once, when the sky was clear and the sun unrolled its carpet of light before his eyes, he caught sight of a little brown speck among the green stems. His legs disappeared in his fur, and his body lengthened out, as he pushed chin, neck, belly, and tail slowly along the ground. . . . Now he could see that the spot was a bird, so fat and heavy that it weighed down the thistletop on which it sat.
Suddenly came a hoarse scream from the air: "Kra, kra!"
Soon afterwards a peewit fluttered round his ears. It had come from behind and caught him in the act; he had been so absorbed in his sport that he had forgotten to keep a look out.
He refused to flee; he just sat there slashing with his tail while the wide-awake flying-corps of birds did sentry duty above!
Two crows hung low on flapping wings just over his head, scolding and cursing him until his hair vibrated with fury. The pair of peewits goaded him to frenzy by attacking alternately from behind and before, while the stupid larks came and sat on the gate-post not far off to watch the fun.
He had to give up all hope of that speck on the thistle-top; but just to have seen it and to have got so near to it seemed to him, nevertheless, something of an adventure.
For a long time he wandered about in vain, sniffing the flowers, but at last, just by a heap of stones, he found a new brown speck. Had he been experienced and realized what he was after, he would perhaps have hesitated; as it was, he rejoiced in happy ignorance, and sprang.
The brown speck—which was a young weasel out on the same errand as himself— sprang with a whine into the air. It was instantly fully alive to its danger! Although thin as a lath and not longer than a mole, it showed him at once by its grin that it possessed teeth by no means inferior to his own.
But Black did not mean to be cheated of his spoil a second time; he attacked suddenly and recklessly, metamorphosed in a flash from a black shadow into a living, vicious beast.
With hair on end and eyes gleaming phosphorescent in the twilight, he made his spring.
The young weasel jumped aside, giving him at the same time a sharp little nip in the neck. Its methods resembled rather those of a pole-cat; for it did not attack openly, but kept darting in from the side and from behind with quick, cunning little feints.
The little vermin was possessed of a devil; but Black for the moment was possessed of two! He could be a young tiger when he chose—and, undaunted by the wound in his neck, he dealt the weasel a lightning blow with his forepaw, following it up with a murderous bite through the snout which rendered his enemy helpless.
The weasel writhed frenziedly in his grip; but the tiger-kitten killed it off-hand, as if it were a mere mouse. He thought that his spoil smelled rather strongly; but he was too young and hungry to be dainty. . . .
He picks it up and makes for home . . . arrives via ditch and furrow in the vicinity of the burial-mound. Anyone on the field-path? He is quite close to it, and knows he must cross it. In the ordinary way he prefers walking along it, but not when carrying booty. Supposing one of his brothers or sisters should meet him and try to take it from him! He wants to enjoy his meal in peace —with hide and hair and intestines and all 1 He has no wish to fight twice over for the same spoil; nor does he want to lose his feast and spoil the pleasure of victory by being compelled to share with others.
The electric sheen in his black fur becomes more brilliant, and his eyes strain forward on the alert, as he steals cautiously along absorbed in his thoughts of his victory and the feast to come.
Again comes that hoarse "kra-ing" from the air!
The previous day he had been shown the necessity of concealment when tracking his game; now he was to learn that it was even more necessary after the game was caught.
That fool of a crow has once more sneaked up behind him! It hangs over his head jealous of his prize, while it advertises to the whole world what he has in his mouth.
His triumph is to be marred, then, after all!
From all directions stream his brothers and sisters, headed by old Mother Grey Puss; she approaches with electrified back-fur anxious as to what may be the matter.
They come nearer, but they cannot understand what he is doing! He sits doubled over something he is trying to hide. His ears are flattened and his eyes glitter with anxiety, and they can hear from afar off how he snarls and threatens.
Now Grey Puss herself dares not approach nearer; his multifarious noises of warning become more and more continuous. . . .
The frightened kittens press closer to her; the entire family is overawed and silent; for the first time they hear an angry he-cat's sombre, booming music. "Su-wau-wau-wau . . . mau, mau, mau. . . ."
And he gnashes his teeth until it harmonizes with the plashing of his slaver.