We had many fine cats on our farm, but Queen Cat was the bravest and best of them all. She was the smallest of our cats and stripey, with a smart white chest. She had a beautiful, long, bushy tail. Queen Cat was proud of her tail and held it curved high in the air - just like a large question mark.
Even though Queen Cat was small, she was braver than a lion. All the other farm creatures were scared of her. She would march across the yard with her tail and head held high. The big turkey gobbler would gobble and walk quickly away. The farm dogs would lower their eyes and slink out of her path. They'd had many a sore, scratched nose from the claws of Queen Cat.
Every year, Queen Cat had kittens. They were roly-fat kittens, with long, bushy tails and smart white chests, just like their mother. When Queen Cat had kittens, she was fiercer than ever. There wasn't a farmyard creature bold enough to come near the kitens of Queen Cat.
One year, she had her kittens in the coal shed. It was snug and dry in there - just the place to bring up kittens. Queen Cat was pleased with herself and made a cosy nest amongst the coal sacks for her four stripey kittens. She licked them and purred with joy - but then, she didn't know about the ferret.
The ferret had moved into an old rabbit hole under the shed. The ferret was the worst robber in the farmyard. He ate anything. He stole the hens' eggs from the nests, and ate the baby chickens. But, most of all he wanted to eat the fat, warm kittens of Queen Cat.
Queen Cat was the most watcheful mother in the world. But the ferret knew that sometimes she had to leave her kittens. He twitched his sharp nose and watched and waited.
One day the ferret got his wish. A big fish head was thrown to the farm cats. They fought and growled over the fish head. Queen Cat lifted her nose and sniffed the air. She was hungry. She needed plenty of food so that she could give milk to her fat kittens. A fish head was the best meal she could think of.
She jumped off her sack bed and ran out to the fish head. It was so tasty that Queen Cat forgot about her kittens. She licked her whiskers and ate and ate.
The ferret knew that his time had come. He slid his long, low body out of his hole. Like a grey ghost, he slipped into the coal shed. He glided up to the kittens. He licked his lips at the thought of a fat, tasty kitten.
The ferret grabbed a kitten by the leg and dragged it towards his hole. He knew that, once he had the kitten safely inside his hole, Queen Cat would never be able to find him. He pulled and pulled. The kiten was so fat and heavy that he soon became tired. He rested - his tiny, boot-button eyes darting backwards and forwards - watching for Queen Cat.
He didn't have far to go now. He picked up the kitten by the leg again and began to pull it towards the mouth of the hole. The kitten woke up. It wasn't warm and comfortable any more, it was on the hard ground and its leg hurt. It mewed - a thin sad cry.
It wasn't a loud mew, but it was loud enough for the sharp ears of Queen Cat. She dropped the fish head and raced to the coal shed. She saw the ferret and let out a howl that chilled the blood of all the animals in the farmyard.
Never had there been a fiercer mother than Queen Cat. The ferret knew that now it had to fight for its life.
It dropped the kitten and bared its sharp teeth. Then it sprang, quick as a flash, for the throat of Queen Cat.
Queen Cat shook herself free.
With the ferret moving smoothly as an eel, and Queen Cat screaming, it was a terrible fight. They turned over and over - a ball of spitting, snapping fury in the dust of the farmyard.
Then Queen Cat sank her teeth deep into the ferret's back. Although he bit his teeth right through her tail, she clung to his back until he hung limp and dead in her jaws. Queen Cat had saved her kitten.
Later, a vet came and fixed the bloody wounds of Queen Cat.
After that Queen Cat still walked boldly across the farmyard; but there was something missing. Her tail, once held high in the air, was nothing but an ugly stump.
Queen Cat had saved the life of her kitten, but she had lost her beautiful tail.