This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
Chicken after chicken kept vanishing from the farmyard . . . mysteriously . . . without trace.
The farmer's precious racing-pigeons also disappeared, stolen, one by one, in broad day-light. Some of their feathers were found by the fence—-it was there that Grey Puss lay in ambush, and fell upon the birds before they had time to rise in the air.
They kept watch for her early and late— and the farmer often did sentry duty half the day with loaded gun; he would settle her, sure enough. . . .
But she was cunning and cautious—and the hours of vigil too long for the farmer! So they decided to set a trap.
She walked straight into it! That was not surprising, for she was completely without experience of traps.
There she was; at last they had the criminal!
"The grey she-cat! Yes, I thought as much!" shouted the farmer, swearing. . . . Yes, he remembered that gourmand well!
It was she who ate only the heads of rats. And once, two years ago, she had been found with a chicken in her jaws. She would have been shot there and then, had not the foreman sworn that the chicken was dead before she found it. Well, now at last they knew the truth—the beast must be drowned!
Grey Puss suspected no evil when she was taken to the scullery, which she knew so well, and released from the trap. Furthermore, thirsty and ravenous as she was, she accepted their hospitality in the form of a large bowl of milk. . . . They thought she should have something in reserve for her long journey.
She sat down, cat-like, with her tail curled round her behind, and in a moment of weakness allowed her former friend, the foreman, to stroke her back.
Just as she was finishing and was contentedly licking her mouth, stiff, horny fingers grabbed her and picked her up as if she had been a kitten. Other fingers opened a black abyss beneath her—and, with Box yelling and leaping round her, she was thrust quickly into a sack.
For the first time she began to suspect something wrong. She struggled violently and clutched with her claws—but down she went nevertheless.
She scratches madly at the sack. . . . Her twenty crescent-shaped claws stick out through the canvas in white clusters. However much they shake she won't go to the bottom, but remains obstinately clinging half-way up the side. It dawns suddenly upon her that the humans have deceived her by their unusual kindness; now at last is confirmed what she has so often suspected, that humans, when they try, can be even more cunning than she.
All is pitch-black around her. . . . Her pupils contract, and her sight, which has always served her so well, now works a veritable miracle: she sees right through the canvas, sees clearly the gleam of water appear beneath her.
When they swing her to and fro, in just the same way as the wind has so often swung her in the tree-top, it becomes more difficult to see; everything grows dark again.
Suddenly she is falling . . . yes, she feels at once that she is falling! She clings even more frantically to the side of the sack.
But the sack is falling too! She withdraws her claws from the canvas and holds out her paws ready to land, just as she used to do in the old days when she was kicked through the trap-door in the loft. Suddenly she feels something hard and cold touch her. . . . She is not alone in the sack—she has a comrade!
The comrade is a brick. . . .
The next moment she reaches the water! An ice-cold shower streams in on her, with a smell so horrible that she quite forgets to shiver. She is on the point of suffocation, and leaps up and down the sides of the sack like a fly in a bottle. . . .
The sack is a new one. It has been sacrificed specially for her; they don't want to see her again! But just as the canvas has hitherto defied her claws, so, to a certain degree, it defies the water; she still finds a little air to breath, in her mad death-dance in the dark. . . .
All the time she tears at the sack. . . . She is lucky, and makes an opening in the seam. She struggles through, comes to the surface, sucks in air, sees land, and paddles hurriedly to the bank.
The farm hand who was sent to drown Grey Puss obeyed the order much against his will.
He had been a sailor in his younger days, and knew what a lingering torture death by drowning was.
Why were land-crabs always so keen on this way of ending life? Because mankind had a natural tendency towards cowardice and laziness, he supposed. To smash a cat's skull or put a bullet through a dog's brain demands an effort—besides, it was unpleasant to see the expression in the victim's eyes! No, it was so much easier to drown the thing. . . .
"I'll be hanged if this isn't the last time!" said the man shamefacedly, as he watched the sack disappear from sight; and immediately swung round on his heel and walked away.
So that no one saw the little head which pushed its way breathlessly through the green duck-weed; nor the thin, bedraggled body which a few moments later stood shaking itself dry among the weeds.