This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
Several weeks pass happily. . . . The corn round the burial-mound ripens, and all sorts of grasses compete to lengthen its luxuriant green covering. The stones on the top become more and more hidden from the field path below.
The lark comes and trills at sunrise and midday; and in the evening the whinchat twitters its mournful song. The little, low grass mound has not yet betrayed its secret. . . .
The kittens in its bowels are now about twice the size of moles; their bodies have become a trifle longer and more elastic, and on their short, plump hind-quarters the worm-like appendages of childhood are beginning to thicken into soft, furry tails. Their eyes shine like stars, and on each of the small, bullet-shaped heads a little wrinkled snout forms a centre for a bunch of stiff, shiny whiskers. It is about time, the old cat thinks, that they begin to take solid food.
At first she brings them eggs and unfledged birds, which their baby jaws soon learn to masticate. Later on their diet becomes coarser and more varied.
Early one morning she appears with a small, greyish-brown creature in her jaws, its white stomach shining like a puddle of water reflecting the sun. Its short, little forepaws with the pink claws hang limp in surrender, and its long hind legs stick out stiffly like stilts. A thin, hairless tail dangling like a broken straw completes the picture.
The kittens at once respond to their mother's food-signal, and, falling over one another in their eagerness, rush headlong to the entrance.
With their small behinds stiffly elevated, they rub themselves affectionately against the old cat's legs and body; she positively disappears in a forest of tails. Purring loudly, her head erect, she remains standing before them, turning and twisting the interesting creature to give them a full view of the spoil.
At last, after what seems an endless wait, each receives his mouthful.
Big crouches on his haunches and plays delightedly with the mouse's tail, which he holds in his paws. When, at a smack from him, it gives a jump, his eyes glow and he hops round his new toy on his hind legs. Suddenly he runs away to a corner and begins digging a hole—Grey Puss sees that he has his father's appetite!
The first few times she herself kills the mouse with a bite, but later on the young ones are permitted to share in the fun. Soon also she allows them to play a little with the unfortunates, so that they may learn the first principles in the art of trapping. To encourage them still further to forage for themselves, she buries her victims round about the base of the burial-mound.
The struggle for food has left its mark upon the little mother-cat. She has become noticeably thinner, and her coat no longer has its glossy sheen. The crowd of rapidly growing children, who make constantly increasing demands on her skill, is telling on her strength. It is almost impossible for her to secure all the mice necessary for them—and therefore, in her dilemma, she sometimes leaves the straight path of virtue and does what second nature urges her.