This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
A shadowy bundle at the bottom of the bole comes to life: human eyes would have taken it for a number of mouldering sausages lying among moss and touchwood.
The she-cat cautiously approaches the bundle, letting herself down backwards by the root of the gooseberry bush—at every third or fourth step uttering a low, soft miauw.
The bundle becomes conscious of her, and still half asleep, begins to move.
Now a little leg with tiny, extended claws is stretched into the air, now a sleepy, yawning head pops into sight. Then the old cat glides behind the heap and pushes herself carefully underneath.
The young ones, listening delightedly to the soft, ingratiating miauws, scent immediately the spiced milk-nipples and swarm into her embrace—with relaxed thighs she cuddles still farther beneath them. They crawl forward, fumbling blindly and seeking to get hold . . . and she purrs to them contentedly a long, long lullaby.
Outside, the day rises from its cloudy bed on the horizon. The stork's cackle resounds from the farmhouse roof; the bird, emitting a volley of notes, appears simultaneously on the top of the chimney like a small black paper silhouette. Its crackling castenets wake the farmyard cocks—and now a running fire is kept up all over the village; cock-a-doodle-do, cock-a-doodle-do. Small strips of cloud which seemed before so water-logged and grey become fleecy and reddish, while the horizon is filled like a deep dish with the dazzling shafts of the rising sun.
Above the fields trills the now visible chorus of larks, and the waking cattle greet the day with subdued grunts and bellows. Linnets fly twittering through the air, and a company of peewits flap like a black, drifting cloud across the sunlit sky. Along the grass-bordered wheel-tracks the hare comes hopping, his stomach stuffed with food, his long ears straddled wide; the fellow is courting in these days and has scarcely time for sleep. He squats down and stares at the big red bull, wondering where his little, light-footed hare-girl can have gone. The bull gets up and stretches himself lazily. . . .
Now the edge of the sun appears behind the hills; the partridge whirrs and the wild ducks in the swamp sweep round in circles. Hedge and fence are thrown into sharp relief, and thin, crooked shadows from the farm trees jump up on the white gable of the house.
The horizon is on fire! It is sunrise. The kittens down in the willow stump have all found their nipples; they lift their tiny paws with joy and stretch out their little claws; they cling greedily to the old she-cat's body and nestle warmly in the shelter of her loins.
Big, the largest, now places a forepaw on either side of his milk-spring, and pushes and pulls with all his strength, while with distended nostrils he sucks and squeezes until he gasps for breath and the milk gurgles in his throat.
Occasionally one of the kittens, its tiny tongue licking its small, pointed muzzle, thrusts up a red nose for a breathing-space.
No mercy is shown! Another kitten at once seizes the still running nipple—the poor, greedy one, occupied for the moment in coughing, must be content temporarily to stand aside.
The happy little mother lies purring with delight over her maternal duties—and at intervals, when one of her little blind children utters a tiny miauw, she miauws back tenderly and consolingly.
Old Grey Puss has the sweetest cat-face possible. The chin and lower lip are white, as is also the upper lip with its shining whiskers. But above the slightly mahogany-coloured snout she seems almost to be wearing a mask. It is dead black—and gives a veiled, deceitful look to the gleaming, golden-yellow eyes.