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Kittenhood, the baby time especially of country cats, is with most the
brightest, sprightliest, and prettiest period of their existence, and
perhaps the most happy. True, when first born and in the earliest era of
their lives, they are blind, helpless little things, dull, weak, and
staggering, scarcely able to stand, if at all, almost rolling over at
every attempt, making querulous, fretful noises, if wakeful or cold, or
for the time motherless. But 'tis not for long; awhile, and she, the
fondest of mothers, is with them. They are nestled about her, or amid
her soft, warm fluffy fur, cossetted with parental tenderness, caressed,
nurtured, and, with low, sweet tones and fondlings, they are soothed
again and again to sleep.--They sleep.--Noiseless, and with many a
longing, lingering look, the careful, watchful, loving creature slowly
and reluctantly steals away; soon to return, when she and her little
ones are lost "in the land of dreams." And so from day to day, until
bright, meek-eyed, innocent, inquiring little faces, with eager eyes,
peep above the basket that is yet their home. One bolder than the others
springs out, when, scared at its own audacity, as quickly, and oft
clumsily, scrambles back, then out--in--and out, in happy, varied, wild,
frolicsome, gambolsome play, they clutch, twist, turn, and wrestle in
artless mimicry of desperate quarrelling;--the struggle over, in
liveliest antics they chase and rechase in turn, or in fantastic mood
play; 'tis but play, and such wondrous play--bright, joyous, and light;
and so life glides on with them as kittens--frisky, skittish, playful

A few more days, and their mother leads them forth, with many an anxious
look and turn, softly calling in a subdued voice, they halting almost at
every step; suddenly, oft at nothing, panic-stricken, quickly scamper
back, not one yet daring to follow where all is so oddly strange and
new, their natural shyness being stronger than the love of freedom.
Again, with scared look and timid steps, they come, when again at
nothing frightened, or with infantile pretence, they are off,
"helter-skelter," without a pause or stay, one and all, they o'er and
into their basket clamber, tumble in, turn about and stare with a more
than half-bewildered, self-satisfied safety look about them. Gaining
courage once more, they peer about, with dreamy, startled, anxious eyes,
watching for dangers that never are, although expected. Noiseless comes
their patient, loving mother; with what new delight they cling about
her; how fondly and tenderly she tends them, lures, cossets, coaxes, and
talks, as only a gentle mother-cat can--"There is no danger,
no!--nothing to fear. Is she not with them; will she not guard, keep and
defend them? There is a paradise out there; through this door; they must
see it. Come, she will show them; come, have confidence! Now,
then--come!" When followed by her three little ones, and they with much
misgiving, she passes out--out into the garden, out among the lovely,
blooming, fragrant roses, out among the sweet stocks and the
damask-coloured gilly-flowers, the pink daisies, brown, red, and orange
wallflowers, the spice-scented pinks, and other gay and modest floral
beauties that make so sweet the soft and balmy breath of Spring. Out
into the sunshine, almost dazed amid a flood of light, warmed by the
glowing midday sun. Light above, light around and everywhere about;
while the sweet-scented breezes come joy-laden with the happy wild
birds' melodious songs; wearied with wonderment, under the
flower-crowned lilacs they gather themselves to rest. How beautiful all
is, how full of young delights; the odorous wind fans, soothes, and
lulls them to rest, while rustling leaves softly whisper them to
sleep--they and their loving mother slumber unconscious of all things,
and with all things at peace. There, stretched in the warm sunshine
asleep, possibly dreaming of their after-life when they are kittens no
longer, they rest and--sleep.

Their young, bright life has begun; how charming all is, how peaceful
under the young, green leaves, bright as emeralds; about them
flickering, chequering lights play with the never-wearying, restless
shadows; they know of nothing but bliss, so happy, they enjoy
all--sweet-faced, gentle-eyed and pretty. Happy, there is no other word.
"Happy as a kitten." "Sprightly as a kitten." As they sleep they dream
of delight, awake they more than realise their dreams.

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