This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
During the long, still evenings sounds could always be heard far away in the huge "stone-heap" where most of the tracks found by Red sooner or later ended. Often she approached courageously quite close and sat outside listening. Perpetual noise and dis-turbance reigned within; shrill whines, deep bellows, crowings, and cacklings penetrated its walls. A strong animal smell, as if the stone-heap were wrapped in an enormous food-paper, permeated the surrounding atmosphere.
One evening, as she sat hidden in the corn, she saw a man, with clogs clattering and fore-paws covered with fur, come out and walk past.
The stableman had Box with him. . . .
The dog scented cat, and caught a glimpse of red fur—and now Red had to gallop for her life through the corn.
Long-legged Box had almost overtaken her when she ran up into the top of a small willow tree, where, by exerting all her strength, she managed to hang fast, swaying to and fro. Box executed a wild war-dance round the trunk, leaping up as high as he could; when he grew tired of that, he turned his back to the tree and howled towards the farm for help. . . .
Suddenly he hears a noise behind him. He whirls round, but can see nothing on account of the thick corn. He throws a glance up at the willow-top. It is empty!
At last he realizes what has happened. The red scamp has outdone him; with nose to the scent he rushes after. . . .
The spoor leads into a ditch—and Box follows!
Now through a culvert under a road—and Box rushes at full speed into the culvert! It is lined with stones, and narrow—too narrow for the dog's well-nourished body; he sticks fast, and can move neither forward nor back.
He has not even room left to bark; his ribs are gripped as in a vice; it is all he can do to manage a feeble, frightened whine.
All that evening he remains a prisoner in his stone cell; during the night the water rises and covers his paws—until at last, late next afternoon, his body has become so emaciated that he succeeds in squeezing backwards out of the trap.
Delighted, he runs home at once to the farm, where, however, he is subjected to the additional humiliation of being well scolded for his absence. How had his lordship enjoyed himself all that time? He had perhaps been making love in the next parish? Or had he been camping out with the fisherman's yellow mongrel? Yes, he was a Don Juan, that's what he was; a thoroughly wicked fellow! . . .
"Be careful!" he was threatened vaguely. His place was in the farmyard at night to keep guard!
Next day he was chained up.
One would think that Red would have been so frightened by this narrow escape that she would have avoided the farm and its surroundings for the future; but it was far from being the case—that sort of mishap had no effect on her at all.
In fact, with her system of going to work, such things were sure to happen; no need, therefore, to take them too seriously!
A few evenings later she is sitting again at the edge of the cornfield, and as nobody comes out and no dog chases her away, it is obvious that she is meant to gain admittance!
She creeps along the garden fence and sneaks calmly past the stall to the manure-heap, where she spends the whole night in undisturbed peace ransacking "the big food bag."
She came back night after night; and became more and more daring. . . .
One morning early, the housewife coming suddenly into the larder, discovered a strange cat sitting on one of the shelves, eating. She grabbed the broom and lunged out after the brute, but in her excitement aimed so badly that she transformed a large bowl of cream into a cataract!
Now the farmer's wife became really angry! If that red devil stole cream, she'd soon begin taking puddings and meat. . . . She hit about her wildly and futilely. . . . While Red escaped by the grating through which she had come.
"Was it a cat?"
The good woman became suddenly doubtful when she had cooled down. Nobody round about owned such a cat, as far as she knew. . . .
Was it not rather a young fox she had seen? . . .