This chapter is from the "Kittens: A Family Chronicle" book, by Svend Fleuron.
The nihilist was really beginning to reform. What the farmer's wife failed to achieve with her dog lessons, Grey Puss succeeded in doing with her needle-like claws.
But Box had his allies!
One Sunday afternoon, when the farm hands felt the time hang heavily, one of them suggested a visit to the burial-mound. Box was always running out there and barking at something—probably there was a fox in the hole.
To be prepared for emergencies, one of the men snatched up an armful of hay, and off they went, the dog dancing excitedly in front. Box, who understood at once what was on foot, felt fearfully important—and the moment the mound came in sight he set up a mighty war-cry; and by so doing gave the kittens plenty of warning.
For a long time the inhabitants of the mound lay listening to the loud barking; then they heard the dull tramp of "humans," and a little later the crackling of hay—and now a huge, foul-smelling creature entered the tunnel.
Slowly and silently it crept forward; dirty and grey, it swayed and swelled; soon it completely filled the passage.
Grey Puss growled threateningly and crouched low on the ground, her face towards the oncoming monster. Big-kitten lay at her side, ready to lend instant assistance; while "Madness" hissed and bared his teeth, prepared to fight to the death.
He had fought with moles, with rats, and even with a crow—but never with an opponent which stared so keenly back as this one. Although he could not see its eyes in the gloom, the smoke-dog's glare made his own smart until they watered, so that he had to keep wiping them dry with his forepaw.
Now the mysterious beast was upon them! "Madness" saw his mother spring to her feet —and he rushed valiantly towards the enemy, his mouth opened wide to seize it by the throat. Instead, he himself was seized by the throat! He had to open his mouth still wider; he felt as if his tongue were being torn out; he coughed and spluttered; a suffocating feeling racked his nose; he could not draw breath; his nostrils pricked and smarted as if clutched by the monster's invisible claws. Snorting and sneezing, he turned and fled for for his life.
He has managed to escape; luckily the monster could not hold him! Also, it does not drive him to frenzy, like that confounded old crow, by jabbing at his tender whiskers all the time. It is more merciful, and allows him to retreat in peace.
He regains his breath and is almost himself again. He rubs his head well with both fore-paws and prepares for another attack. This time he is determined not to run away—and he shakes his head up and down to see where he is.
Fortunately for little "Madness" as well as for "Terror," who together with Grey and White lay crouched in a corner of the tomb, their eyes flashing green with fright . . . fortunately indeed for the whole happy family, the "smoke-dog" abruptly ceased barking its stinking breath down towards them.
The bundle of hay brought by the labourers was consumed. They could have procured more easily enough—for there was plenty of corn round the hill, and it lay in sheaves—but they had found out by now that smoke was there in abundance—what was lacking was a draught to carry the smoke down into the hole.
And besides, what if they did manage to suffocate the beast—they would never be able to get it out and skin it; so that there would be no pelt to make an odd shilling or two out of! What was the use of it all?
Well, after all, they had killed time for a couple of hours . . . and they threw themselves on their backs and began to play with Box, stroking his back and ears. Yes, he was a fine dog! "Here, Box, Box!"—and they smacked their trouser-legs—"seize cat, seize cat!"
That day was the last the kittens spent in the old viking-grave!
Just as once before in their lives Grey Puss had rescued them from the willow stump, so did she rescue them now from the burial-mound.
This time it was so simple! They knew all about it in advance—and she had only to place herself at their head and lead on. . . .
They left the Hill Farm's fertile fields, and crossed right over to the other side of the village. There, near a disused peat-pit, they found a dilapidated turf-house, in the deserted loft of which they made their home.