Little Mouse and her family had been in the farmhouse for all winter. They had seen
the autumn leaves fall and the snows come. They played out in the snow as often as
they could. The snow had made everything very quiet and they had to be on their
guard much more than before. Mr Tibbs was able to creep up on them much easier but
he didn’t like the cold so despite it being easier to catch them unawares, it was
also more uncomfortable for him.
Mr Tibbs had managed to catch Thistle once by cornering him near the barn but Boo had jumped onto the cats back unexpectedly. Actually it was unexpected for Boo too, as he was only expecting to jump out on Thistle to catch him out in their game. Imagine his surprise when he landed on the back of Mr Tibbs. Imagine Mr Tibbs’ face as Boo landed and shocked him so much he jumped almost out of his skin and ran away as fast as he could. Thistle breathed a huge sigh of relief and Boo, who had been thrown off by the cat, had landed in a pile of deep snow. Boo popped his head out of the snow and looked very silly as though he was wearing a cap of snow on his head. After running back to the relative safety of a near by barrel, Thistle and Boo both fell about laughing.
Pignut and Teasel came running over as they had seen what had happened and were laughing too telling them of how it looked from their angle. However Mr Sprinkles was also witness to it and had some very sharp words for them. Back in the safety of their little home in the farmhouse, Mr Sprinkles talked to his children. They had been careless and he didn’t want to see any of them become a snack for Mr Tibbs. Little Mouse listened very carefully; she shuddered at the thought of becoming a snack for the cat. She thought about a cat eating her and the idea didn’t appeal at all. Still she would have loved to have seen the look on Mr Tibbs’ face when Boo landed on him… she giggled quietly to herself.
For most of the winter they mice had run around all over the house and the farmyard. As long as they were sensible and careful they had quite a bit of freedom. One day Pignut made a discovery that shocked everyone. He had been out with teasel in the farmyard when a Rat had come along and chased him. The Rat was not very nice and he had to run, jump twist and turn very fast to save himself from being caught.
The Rat was clever and very fast and Pignut was running out of breath. He had found a small hole in a wall to hide in but it wasn’t big enough to keep out the way of the Rat when suddenly…
“Swoosh…” A shadow passed the hole and the Rat was gone. Pignut waited for a little while and then slowly and tentatively crept out of the hole ready to run at the slightest hint of any danger. Pignut looked about but there was no sign of the Rat or anything else. Then he heard a cry from above. Pignut looked up and there, high in the sky, were a couple of Red Kites one of whom had a Rat in its talons. Teasel ran over to Pignut to see if he was OK he had seen everything and was worried for his brother.
The others had heard the commotion and had come running out to see what was going on. Mrs Sprinkle was happy to see her children were all OK. Little Mouse, Thistle and Boo were hugging pignut and telling him how brave and lucky he was. Pignut and Teasel then told them of what had happened to the Rat. All the mice went very quiet for a little while. Mr Sprinkles told them all to come in for tea. Once inside he said “We will all have to be much more careful when we go outside from now on and you, Little Mouse… I know you like to explore on your own… You be very careful”
“Yes Dad.” She said.
Then they all had tea; the talk around the table was of the Rat, the Kites and of what the young mice were planning to do tomorrow. Playing in the snow again seemed to be top of the agenda. Though, they all agreed that they would be much more careful from now on. They decided to scout out a new play area where Mr Tibbs hadn’t seen them so he would be unlikely to look there.
The next day came and it was another cold day. The mice had run around under the kitchen floorboards picking up the crumbs then returned back to their home to share their breakfast. Afterwards the children all scampered out to play whilst Mr and Mrs Sprinkles set about finding some more warm fibres for their bedding, as the winter was getting much colder. The young mice looked all around the farmyard. Teasel found an area round the back of the milking sheds where the snow was fresh and had lain undisturbed for days. Mr Tibbs obviously didn’t come here, no one and nothing else either for that matter.
The young mice were ecstatic, they had found somewhere safe to play. The four brothers jumped in and out of the deep snow. Little Mouse watched her brothers as they chased each other around and giggled. She looked over the whole scene as though she was just an observer. She looked at the fields covered in snow and of the play of her brothers. It was a strange scene, cold, beautiful and very peaceful. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted something that made her heart jump. She saw a ginger cat sitting on a stack of hay bales. He sat there, very still, watching the mice but not moving. At first she was shocked and scared she wanted to call to her brothers to warn them… But somehow she knew the cat was not interested in the mice below. She watched him and wondered about him.
The ginger cat looked unlike other cats. He didn’t have the look like other cats did. He seemed different in some way and he intrigued her. Was there the look of a mouse hunter about him? She didn’t think so. Little Mouse watched the ginger cat for sometime before he slinked away inside the bales of hay. In watching him she realised that he posed no threat to them so she kept quiet about him, not letting the others see where she was looking or what she was transfixed by. Teasel, Pignut, Thistle and Boo had finished playing as they had all got very cold and were scampering back home. Boo called out to Little Mouse to ask if she was coming with them?
“I’ll be along in a minute,” she said nonchalantly. She didn’t want to give away what she was thinking.
Little Mouse watched as they disappeared around the corner, making sure they were gone, before she turned to what she had planned in her mind. Quickly and as stealthily as possible she made her way over to the bales of hay where the little ginger cat had disappeared. The bales of hay over to one side of this new play area were stacked against the milking shed wall. Inside was a small area that was made when the bales had been put there, much like a child’s home made camp, it was dark but reasonably warm.
A lone figure sat in the middle of the open space inside the cosy hay. Hidden slightly by shadow the figure was hunched up, almost in a ball, only the odd flick of a tail giving away the outline of a cat. Two little brown eyes were focused on him; Little Mouse was crouched near the entrance out of sight of the cat. The ginger cat seemed a little sad sat there all alone. Little Mouse watched him for quite a while; he never knew she was there and she watched him with a growing interest. Eventually she sneaked away but not before the image of the cat had burned into her brain. She got home a little late and got a bit of a telling off for not being home sooner.
That night there was a new thought that played on her mind as she went to sleep. It was the image of the little ginger cat and how sad he looked sitting in the dark of his home. As Little Mouse slept her dreams seemed to come alive, dreams of a little ginger cat. The next morning Little Mouse woke up feeling very perplexed at her dreams. It was a while before she could go over to the hay bales again. When she did she was careful not to let the others know exactly what she was doing. Thistle and Teasel were often playing and scurrying around the new play area. Little Mouse would join them and play along but all the while she would keep on the look out for the little ginger cat.
Many times she played with her brothers there and many times she saw the little ginger cat. He never approached or tried to catch them, he would just watch and in turn she would watch him, neither noticing that they were in fact watching each other. Sometimes Little Mouse would be there by herself and on those occasions the ginger cat would pay closer attention even though she didn’t necessarily see that. Likewise she too took more time and awareness to him and what he was doing. Especially on the days he didn’t look very happy. She wondered what it was that could make him look sad.
The cat and mouse game that they were inevitably playing, despite not realising it, carried on for sometime. It was mid spring before any contact between the two happened. Little Mouse had seen the ginger cat in his hay home many times this time was different. The ginger cat saw her, he got up from where he was sitting and walked over to her. Sat down and just looked at her… she looked back a little startled and not sure of what to do. Her instinct to runaway being almost irresistible but she stayed there. Inside she was shaking a little; inside he was unsure of what to do next. He knew he was a cat and that cats chased mice but… He wanted something more than just lunch. He wanted a friend.
They stared at each other for a while, time passing in what seemed like seconds but was in reality minutes. Then Little Mouse said, “Hallo.”
The ginger cat was a little taken aback but was very pleased to make her acquaintance.
“Hi.” Said the ginger cat with a gentle smile.
“It has been a long time that I have wanted to meet you properly.” Said Little Mouse. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
The ginger cat looked at Little Mouse with wonderment in his eyes. “I have seen you many times playing with the other mice and wanted to say hallo but was afraid I’d scare you off so never took the chance.”
Little Mouse seemed to breathe a deep sigh of relief and they sat and talked for quite a while and it was dark before Little Mouse got home.
The ginger cat and Little Mouse both parted happily agreeing to meet again soon. That night the ginger cat went to sleep with a light heart, lighter than it had been in a very long time. He smiled to himself and fell to sleep with a warm feeling in his heart that he had found a true friend, from a very unusual place.
From then on, Little Mouse met the ginger cat in secret as often as they could. They became the very best of friends. Spending many hours with each other, discovering things they both enjoyed doing. Strange as it may seem they had found a great friendship together. The Kestrel that lived near the farm often saw them down by the brook, jumping on the steppingstones and looking at the fish. He often wanted to swoop down on that mouse but the presence of the cat made him think twice about it. Still she looked good enough to eat. The Badgers saw them in the woods and the Bluebells playing hide and seek. And the Mole accidentally bumped into them one sunny day as they lay in the long grass warming themselves in the sun. He didn’t mean to surprise them, only it was very bright and he could not see very well as the sun was in his eyes.
So many eyes had seen them that eventually the time came when they stopped meeting in secret and just played openly in the farmyard. It made for quite a sight to see. A little ginger cat and harvest mouse together but they seemed to have so much fun that no one ever bothered about it. There are many tales to tell of those two happy souls but they will have to wait... Now it is time for bed and somewhere out there is a little harvest mouse snuggled up in the warm fur of a little ginger cat, both sleeping peacefully.