This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
ROUND the outskirts of the farm the wallflowers crowd in full bloom, flaming and glowing in the nearly risen sun.
A little fox-coloured cat curls in and out among the flowers, sniffing the yellow goose-grass and the purple thyme. With its own inimitable deftness it avoids the dew.
It follows a human "spoor," the pursuit of which its big brother has long since abandoned on account of its acid smell.
Red reaches a garden; she enters—and now she scents spoor after spoor, all of which lead along the hedge towards a heap of branches, where they stand still for a long time.
She makes, as usual, a thorough investigation, sniffing each single stone and leaf; but this time she is unlucky, and fails to remark a little grey-brown partridge, which now, for the third year in succession, hatches its eggs under the branches on the opposite side of the hedge.
Here, in the leafy soil, the bird has formed its nest. The maid had found it one day when hoeing the weeds from the path, and now she goes there every day to look after her bird.
The ceaseless, soothing rustle of the poplar-leaves and the hollow, satisfied purring of the rye filter through the hedge and distract the scavenger's attention. Then she surprises a dragon-fly with the morning dew still on its wings. . . .
Suddenly a burst of chirping and whistling streams out from an open window: a bright-yellow canary hops joyfully in its wire-bound cage.
Not a single "human" to be seen or heard! Red leaves the dragon-fly to work out its own salvation and wriggles like a worm towards the unsuspecting bird.
But how can she capture it?
Ah, that is her specialty! Out in the wilds she fails time after time; she is not quick enough, not bold enough, not sure enough!
She does not understand how to work; but she is a genius at thieving!
The fear of detection stimulates her special powers and characteristics to an incredible degree. During these brief periods she becomes far more cunning and far more ferocious than any of the other kittens.
If only the bird could fly up and away—she would be foiled at once! Or if it could only keep calm and remain sitting in the middle of its perch in its safe, wire-bound cage—all her efforts would be useless.
But the terrified canary begins to flutter about wildly—and Red's tactics make her still more confused.
The cat keeps jumping from one side to the other; and then up on the top of the cage and down again. . . .
The more maddened and confused the poor bird becomes, the calmer and more composed is the cat. With cold-blooded precision she waits until her victim comes within reach, then thrusts her strong paw against the cage. The thin wires separate, and through the aperture her scythe-like claws impale the canary and haul it towards her. One mouthful and it is gone!
Now for flight. . . .
Like a streak of sunlight she glides along the window-sill and leaps to the ground— while sparrows from the gutter fight for the yellow feather, which the warm summer breeze loosens from her whiskers and bears aloft.
Once in the garden she gets up speed, scurries along the hedge, through into the cornfield, and so along the hedge again.
But why run? No shout or bark breaks the silence ... it does not look as if mankind's four-legged police have seen her this time!