This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
In the evening, when the men were returning from their work, they heard a miserable howling and splashing from the old manure-well in the field. They stopped and listened; they seemed to know the sound. Wasn't it Box's voice?
One of them went nearer, and saw at once from the state of the boards that someone had recently fallen through.
The moment Box heard help approaching, he began barking loudly. Thanks to his long stilts, he had, fortunately for him, been able to reach the bottom; but he could not escape unaided from the foul cesspool.
The man called to the others, and they hastened to help the unfortunate bather.
An old fire-hook, attached to a bucket which was used to hoist manure when the pump went on strike, was let down, and Box was not long getting into the "life-saving chair."
His lacerated and bleeding back was covered with a generous layer of frightful-smelling muck; nevertheless, he felt deeply hurt when his rescuers repulsed his eager, well-meant thanks for the service they had rendered him.
"Puh! Box . . . you pig!" they shouted, kicking out at him with their wooden clogs as he rushed forward to embrace them.
And on arrival at the farm he was, without the slightest warning, thrice swilled over with pails of horrid, icy-cold water.
And, to add insult to injury, he was forbidden admission to the house for several days afterwards. . . .
After this, "Dirty-pig Box" superseded the usual call of "Good Box" . . . dirty-pig Box who fell in the cesspit!
Grey Puss is ruler of the fields; no other animal than Box dare face her claws. Once there came a fox; but Grey Puss settled with him long ago. Prowling about one night he found the cat-family's delicious scent; followed it up to the burial-mound, and stuck his nose in the entrance . . . spitting and wheezing noises exploded from every hole and crevice!
When he ventured farther, a claw-speckled wild beast flew out and slashed at his head before he had time to bite. He had seen the spitting fury plainly—but now after the impact he could not catch a glimpse of it, although his nose and ears told him plainly that it was still just in front of him.
Reynard shook his head and blinked his eyes incessantly, but without effect; he remained steadily blind. The blood poured down his face—and in the entrance before him stood Grey Puss, with back and belly arched like a tightly strung bow. Her murderous claws had mutilated her opponent terribly—both his eyes were torn out. . . .
It would have been a life of idyllic peace for Grey Puss if only that stupid Box had kept away. . . .
Her old sweetheart, the kitten's father, seldom leaves the shelter of the farm nowadays, and never ventures as far as the old willow stumps, let alone the burial-mound. Besides, the mother-cat no longer has reason to fear him; he won't try to eat his children now that they are so big!
She has long since banished from the fields the numerous other cats from the village and the neighbouring farms. The mere sight of such a sleek, milk-fattened house-cat, who hunts and kills only for the sport of the thing rouses a furious hatred in her breast. Besides, she is just a wee bit jealous of their sheltered, luxurious lives!
It irritates her that she is forbidden access to the sweet milk-pails, and that she is homeless, and doomed to eternal wandering. The shelter of the barn, the warmth of the stall, the peaceful gloom of the loft, have never lost their attraction for her. . . .
During the day she now leaves the kittens to take care of themselves, and spends most of her time sleeping under a hedge or fence near by, lulled by the rustle of the leaves and the soft rasping of the corn-stalks. At nightfall, however, she returns regularly to the mound, bringing always some dainty or other with her. Then the young ones jump and dance round her in delight, pulling and biting at her fur.
But in the depths of the night, some stray wayfarer, hurrying home with lighted lantern along the road, sometimes sees a cluster of fiery balls glowing in the darkness of the hedge. Two by two they hang, as if fastened to the wall of gloom. . . .
It is Grey Puss out hunting at the head of her band of kittens!
She catches hares, so big that she cannot drag them with her, but must tear them asunder on the spot and parcel them out among the youngsters.