This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
Among the wheat, which is now almost ripe, flame the poppy-torches . . . the blue-stalked corn is so thickly massed that Grey Puss disappears completely in its depths.
The seething of the rye from the adjacent field fills her sensitive ear; it is the keynote of the summer music.
Out on the grass between the heaps of hay Box sits majestically on his tail. He has accompanied the men working in the fields, and he feels himself one of them, especially taking into consideration the important nature of his sentry duty.
He has just been trying to facilitate the farmer's ploughing by digging a deep hole in search of a mole. But the ground is too dry and the work on the whole too tedious—he doesn't care about it any more! Then, far away out on the road he sees a man walking, and so barks at him for a time.
In this manner he is constantly useful!
At last he feels he would like a trot round. . . . Scarcely has he crossed the potato-field when two partridges come running towards him. Wow! he is upon them with a jump— and after them in the direction in which they shoot away on their stiff, short wings!
Then he catches sight of an animal emerging from the corn. It creeps along, its body close to the ground. ... It smells, he notices; ha, cat . . . cat!
Box has forgotten the partridges and races after puss. But it is difficult for him to make progress, for the corn is thick and is higher than the cat's back. Only with extreme difficulty is he able to follow the scent.
Grey Puss for the time takes things easily. . . . She canters quietly away from the direction of the burial-mound. Several times she passes ditches and bunches of thistles where she could easily have lain in ambush and attacked the dog; but she knows Box well enough from old times, and does not take the pursuit very seriously.
For a time they play hide-and-seek; then the affair bores her, and she turns and makes a bee-line for home.
The children, not realizing the state of affairs, swarm out to meet her.
They see gliding towards them a daylight-coloured dog with big lumps of night stuck to its coat. Its legs move very quickly, and its tail whips and whistles like the wind. It comes with wide-open jaws, and tongue hanging out of its mouth. "Ha, ha, ha!" it gasps, as with half-shut eyes it sniffs eagerly through its big, split, padded snout.
Box suddenly sees the kittens. He literally quivers with ferocity; but before he can reach them the entrance-hole is deserted.
For a long time he remains standing outside, barking and scratching up the ground— then he rushes home to the farm and whines and jumps about; he has something to tell— and he makes a jump towards the field; he has seen cats out there, cats of all colours!
Grey Puss pondered a while over the occur-ence—this Box, near whose kennel she used to sleep, on whose straw she had lain, and whose food she had sometimes shared, what did he want here sniffing at their mound? She could easily understand all the others, her natural enemies in the fields; but this dog, who, like she, had once been in favour with "the cunning ones"—was he friend or was he foe?
One still, sunny morning she lies by herself at the edge of a ditch, listening to the cows' eternal chewing of the cud, when the sound suddenly ceases.
She wonders why the cows stop eating— and when, in addition, one or two of them begin to run about, she puts up her head— and sees Box lurch out of the corn towards her. . . .
During the whole of the week she has been persecuted by the dog and chased about like a fox. Just as well have it out with him now as later!
For awhile she retreats before him, but upon reaching a small mound she sits and composedly awaits her pursuer.
The plump hooligan, who has lost sight of his quarry behind the waving grass, comes along, his nose close to the ground, fully occupied with following the scent. . . .
So unexpectedly has Grey Puss changed her tactics that he cannot make up his mind to stop, but swerves to one side as if about to run past. She turns as he swings round, thus keeping her face steadily to the foe. . . .
It is quite a new experience for Box to see a cat sit and wait to be taken in his jaws.
He prefaces his attack with a volley of hoarse dog-oaths. . . .
Grey Puss stands with head low and mouth open; dull thunder rumbles from her throat, and her tail whips restlessly from side to side. . . .
Box, who is unfortunate enough to have the sun full in his eyes, opens his jaws wide and makes a ferocious snap; which the cat evades with a high jump which terminates on his back. Facing backwards on him, she lets fly with fore and back claws simultaneously, combing his flesh time after time from neck to tail.
He howls, and shakes himself, and throws himself down, and rolls over and over; but the moment he rises to his feet, Grey Puss is on his back again.
The ruthless cat-exterminator is driven almost out of his wits with pain, and rushes blindly away, burning with lust for revenge, and raging impotently at such treatment from a much-despised cat, whom he now tries to convince in a plaintive whine that he never meant the slightest harm.
Twice he succeeds in shaking off the vile she-devil; but she is utterly relentless—and so, when the old manure-well appears in sight, he turns there instinctively for help. Without hesitation he tears at the crazy lid with his strong, sharp claws—and plunges through head first, while Grey Puss hops off like the flick of a whip.
A dull plash follows, and a tall spurt of red-brown fluid, emitting an insufferable smell, rises behind him. . . .
Grey Puss sneaks round the opening listening to his splashings; then when no more Box appears, she returns straight home to her kittens.