Wednesday, 18 November 2009
The Mice's Tail
One more seasonal story.
Once upon a time there were two mice who were getting by quite nicely in a medium-sized house in Bloomsbury, the literary part of Victorian London. They spent most of their time in the basement which was where the kitchen and pantry were, and although the kitchen maid kept everything scrubbed very clean, the cook dropped enough nuts and raisins about the place for them to live really rather luxuriously. They would sleep during the day, curled up behind the fireplace, which had all the modern conveniences including a built-in oven and a place to heat the irons.
At night, when the servants had finished washing all the pots and pans, scrubbing the floors and hanging all the washing out to dry, the mice came out to play. They were fairly careful not to chew through anything important; they realised that it was a very good idea to let the household think there were absolutely no mice there at all. They had observed with horror what had happened next door when they'd brought a cat into the house.
One winter it was terribly cold in the basement at night so they decided to venture upstairs. Squeezing under the living room door, they found themselves in a magical fairyland and were astonished by the beauty of what they saw. In the middle of the room was an enormous tree, as high as a thousand tiny mice. But what really astonished them were the hundreds of little pink mice who were sleeping in its branches. The two London mice had never really stopped to think what colour they were, but once they realised that they were a nondescript shade of dull grey, they began to be a little disappointed.
"Pink mice!" called the first mouse in a shouty whisper but not a single one of them moved so much as a whisker.
The second mouse joined in and the two of them spent a good 20 minutes making as much noise as they could to try to wake up the pink mice so that they could all play together. Nothing! Not a thing. Not even a polite "hello".
"I wish I could be pink,” said the first mouse. "I wish they would tell us how they got to be that pretty colour."
"I would like to live in a tree where everyone could see me," said the second mouse and they both set about jumping up and down shouting again to see if they could get some answers to their questions.
The mice got so tired that they decided to give up and go to sleep, but they were so impressed by the beauty of the big tree with its beautiful glass decorations and its immense pink mouse population that they curled up in a corner of the sitting room instead of going back to the basement.
The next morning the mice were woken up by three boisterous children who bounded into the room followed by their nanny then their mother and father. Watching carefully from their viewpoint underneath the piano, the mice waited to see what would happen. The children are raced over to the tree and all shouted,
" Please, please! Mummy! Daddy! May we have a sugar mouse?"
"Of course you can, my darlings,” said their beautiful mother in a soft voice which was very different from anything they had ever heard in the kitchen. The children raced to the tree and each one of them grabbed a pink mouse from the fragrant branches. Our two little grey kitchen mice were a little bit envious to see the affection shown to their distant pink relatives. Then, horror! They shivered with fright when these apparently pleasant children grabbed hold of their mice and bit their heads off! They retreated as far as they could, pinned themselves back to the wall underneath the piano and stayed there for the rest of the day shaking with fear until it was dark and quiet again.
When they were convinced that there was absolutely no one left awake in the house, and after a few false starts, they crept more quietly than mice had ever crept before, back down to the kitchen and the safety of the little hole behind the fireplace. They feasted on a sultana and thanked their lucky paws that they were grey.