Bitsy poked her head through the hole in the side of the old shed and sniffed. It smelled like spring, yet snow was falling. Giant snowflakes dissolved as they hit the ground. She knew by the smell and feel of the air that it would snow all night. At the same time she could hear the melting snow dripping from the roof.
Her four kittens mewed and squirmed. They were getting hungry, but Bitsy was too worried about the water seeping into the shed to be concerned about their empty tummies. The kittens were too small to follow her out into the snow to find a safer home.
Pulling her head back inside the shed, Bitsy pushed her kittens with her nose into the highest corner of the nest she had made in some old hay. Then she darted out into the stormy night. She ran up the hill to the farmhouse. The girl would help her.
Bitsy jumped onto the kitchen windowsill. She batted against the window again and again with her paw, yowling loudly. When she heard the girl’s footsteps, she meowed happily and jumped down.
“Bitsy, you hush!” the girl whispered angrily as she opened the door. Relenting, she stooped and patted the cat’s silky head. “Dad thinks I spoil you,” the girl added in a kindlier voice. “He says you can’t come in the house because only spoiled, fancy cats are house cats—and a barn cat like you belongs outside.” She patted Bitsy once more, then closed the door.
Bitsy crept back down the hill. The girl wouldn’t help her. She would have to find a way to save her kittens herself.
The kittens were crying loudly when Bitsy crawled back inside the old shed. Now the water was covering most of the floor! One of her babies had fallen into it already. She had to act now!
Bitsy carefully picked up the wet, shivering kitten. She went back out into the snowstorm and headed for the barn. They would be warm and safe there. But when Bitsy reached the barn, she found the door securely latched.
The mother cat struggled on past the barn and the woodpile to the old chicken coop. She remembered a hole in one end large enough for a cat to enter.
When Bitsy reached the chicken coop, she saw a new, pine-scented board nailed over the hole.
The small mother was nearly covered with snow. She was wet clear to her belly from wading through the cold slush. So many snowflakes were on her eyebrows that it was hard for her to see. The kitten hanging from her jaws was a sorry, wet, furry lump. His mewing was but a tiny sound now.
Bitsy retraced her footprints past the woodpile and the barn. She started back up the hill to the farmhouse. Gently she set the soaked kitten on the back doorstep, then raced back down the hill to the shed. She made three more trips up and down the slush-covered hill, carrying her crying babies to the farmhouse. Then she jumped to the windowsill and clawed the window again and again.
When the girl opened the door, Bitsy stood over her babies, yowling pitifully.
The girl couldn’t believe her eyes. “Why did you bring your kittens out in this storm, Bitsy? You should be ashamed!”
She quickly reached for her jacket and a flashlight hanging on the wall inside. Then she found an old towel and pulled on her boots. Closing the door, the girl knelt down on the porch and filled the towel with the wet, crying kittens. “I guess Dad was right—I have spoiled you. But you can’t come into the house. You have to learn.” Bitsy watched as the girl gathered the towel by its corners and started down the hill with the kittens. Bitsy yowled furiously and tangled herself around the girl’s feet.
“Bitsy, look out! You’ll trip me!” The girl stopped and glared at her, then continued down the hill.
Desperately the mother cat ran ahead to the hole under the shed. She hissed and arched her back, lashing her tail back and forth in warning.
The girl wasn’t afraid of the cat. She brushed the cat aside and opened the door. Stepping inside she heard the water splash against her boots. The girl quickly shined the flashlight around the room.
“Oh, Bitsy!” she cried. “You aren’t spoiled—you needed my help.”
Back outside she shifted the towel full of kittens and the flashlight to one hand, and then closed the door. Stooping down the girl picked up Bitsy and hugged her. “Next time I’ll listen to you.”
Bitsy purred softly as the girl carried them all back to the warm, dry farmhouse.