This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
One day about noon she is skirmishing in the neighbourhood of the farm.
She lies hidden in the grass, her head in the air, keeping sharp look out for booty. In each of the pancake-coloured orbs lies a vivid coal-black streak which divides the pancake into two halves. Cunning and deceit stream from her eyes.
Behind the garden hedge bordering the loose, dry, potato-planted earth a farm hen clucks her thirteen chicks together. The hen has just finished an exhaustive scratching of the soil—and now is taking a simultaneous sun and sand bath, lying luxuriously with widespread wings, her plump, featherless belly fully exposed. The hen is asleep—her head, with its anaemic comb, sticks up stiffly in the air. Her eyes are fast shut.
The wind carries to Grey Puss fragments of dear, home-like sounds; but they do not, as in former times, soothe her nerves. On the contrary, they rouse and excite her with the promise of food. She creeps nearer and nearer in short bursts towards the sleeping hen. Each time she stops to listen—but hears only the chicks enjoying life: her blood races.
Is it tame, that one sitting there? She has forgotten; she no longer distinguishes between tame and wild! She distinguishes only between what is good, and what is not good, for her children to eat.
The soft, pregnant signs of June meet her eyes on every side. Between fresh green oat-fields and succulent clover-carpets the rye whitens and blackens. There along the hedge by the old willows the line of cattle stretches; and down in the meadow, where calves and foals play in their pens, the long-nosed stork walks sunning himself.
The heavy-laden milk-cart drags itself through the stifling noon homeward to the farm. In front of it two red-cheeked, heavy-bosomed girls are seated; an old cow follows tottering behind.
Grey Puss' opportunity has come:—she makes a lightning spring forward. . . .
With a resounding "cluck" the hen jumps up, puffs out her feathers and spreads wide her wings. Her anxious cry of alarm rings over the potato-field, whither she rushes feverishly to collect and protect her children. Grey Puss with a plump young cock in her jaws disappears with a mighty spring among the rye.
A quarter of an hour later she emerges from the hawthorn clump at the base of the burial-mound. The swallows are making their sweeping curves round about the top, veering and shrieking incessantly—there must be something up there to attract their attention!
The furry inhabitants of the mound, who have been lying in a group sunning themselves, see the old cat approach, dragging the great chicken after her; she holds it by the neck, its body and long, naked legs hanging limp and pitiful to either side.
Big, the glutton, at once seizes hold of a wing, and, with closed eyes, grinds and tears the soft-stemmed feathers, making a great deal of noise about it.
Big's assault causes the chicken to swing towards him; at this, Black begins to feel nervous about his share of the spoil—with a jump he runs forward and hangs tightly to one of the legs.
With flattened ears and wide-stretched paws Black tugs with all his might. His neck is stretched forward and the front part of his body raised, but his stomach and hind legs drag along the ground. He resists strenuously and takes a firm hold—he will take care that Big doesn't steal all the spoil; or if he does, then he must pull him along too!
Grey Puss has let go her hold of the neck and now stands with the chicken's head in her mouth; she also will make certain of something—and she likes the head best of all.
Now the remaining kittens come forward. Grey buries her little black muzzle in the chicken's body-feathers. Following her custom, she goes very cautiously to work, and sniffs for a long time before taking hold. But Red, who is more impetuous, digs away with her foreclaws, trying to make a hole as quickly as possible; and, having at last succeeded, she —eagerly assisted by White and Tiny—pulls out endless lengths of warm intestines.