There was once a little kitten, who loved to play better than to do anything else. I wonder if my little reader knows any body like her. She thought every thing that moved was a plaything for her. If the wind whirled a leaf along the path, she scampered after it, as if she thought it meant to say, “Catch me, if you can.”
Grandma’s ball of knitting-yarn never fell on the floor but Kitty ran after it, not to pick it up again –O no! but to roll it, and to roll it about, until the yarn was in a fine tangle, giving poor grandma a great deal of trouble.
All this was very fine fun, no doubt; but kittens were made for something else besides play, and old puss thought it was high time that her child was taught something useful.
So one day she called her from chasing a grasshopper, which was trying to hide from her among the tall grass, and said: “My child, do you know that you are now four months old, and yet you have never caught a single mouse? Our mistress is very kind, and gives us plenty of nice milk, so we should try to be useful to her.”
“I heard her complain this morning that a mouse had been eating her cake, and I think I have found its hole. Now I want you to sit here very quietly, behind the door, where the mouse can’t see you, and watch until you see it come out of its hole, then spring, as you have seen me do, and catch it with your paws.”
Kitty promised to do her best, and after her mother left her she sat very still for a little while, but no mouse came, and she began to think it very dull work. “O dear!” said she, “I am very tired: I think I will take a little run, and then come back again.”
She had just reached the kitchen door when the wind whirled a piece of paper past her; and away she ran after it, over to the duck-pond before she caught it.
Master Herbert was there working for his father, but he loved play best, too; so as soon as he saw the kitten, he cried “Now for some fun! and catching hold of her, he put her into a tin pan, which was there to hold food for the ducks, and before she could even say “mew!” she was sailing off into the middle of the pond!
Poor little Kitty! she did not enjoy her sail at all. She was very much frightened, and wished herself behind the door watching for the mouse; and she mewed so piteously that Herbert felt sorry for her (for he did not wish to be cruel); so he reached out the pitchfork which he had in his hand, and brought her safe ashore.
“Ah!” said Kitty, as she jumped out and shook a few drops of water from her back, “I will never run aways again when I am told to watch for a mouse.”
“I wish,” said Herbert, as he returned to his work, “that I had not stopped to play with the kitten, for now I can not finish my work before dinner. ‘Work first, and then play,’ is father’s rule, and I think it is a very good one.”