Tiptoe......................peeking through the gate

Clarissa, Country Mouse


 I do not know the mouse's name in the following story. As she is the heroine of a Southern tragedy, I have called her Clarissa. The name has feminine, sweet and somewhat Southern undertones, I believe. The tale that follows will not be sweet, but it is a true story.

    Clarissa mouse was a most conscientious soul, and she was expecting a brood of little mice any day now. (In Big People time, we would say around October 15 of 2012.) No one gave her a due date; she just knew things like that. Like any good  mother, she went about the important business of finding a comfortable nest for the delivery.

    She knew the farmhouse from wall to wall, of course, after innumerable trips in and out. The kitchen was her favorite room, but only after the Big People left and went quiet. She could always find something for dinner in there. When Big People had guests who brought along children, the fun could last all night. In cases like that, all the house mice would scurry in at quiet-time for a feast they referred to as Sugar and Crumbs. Oh, the riches that were strewn about on the floor! All manner of sticky and savory delights! Those were times that made the tails twitch, that a mouse could dream about afterward.

    But, when a mouse is bringing little ones into the world, she is not interested in the kitchen. There is danger until quiet-time in kitchens. First-floor rooms are mostly quite public, too. Clarissa mentally ruled out the breakfast room, family room, kitchen and dining areas, and a formal parlor. The first-floor guest room was a possibility, being private, but it had too many windows.

    Deep in thought, Clarissa climbed the 16 stairs to the second floor. (Mice can walk straight upwards because their claws will grip things like stair risers.) She turned right into the Garden Room but backed out, blinded by sunlight. Four windows on three sides of the room! It wouldn't do! (I don't know why, but mice always sound very English when they are thinking.)

She hurried past the knothole in the floor under the picture of a tobacco leaf and paused at the threshold to the sun room.  Again--walls of windows on all three sides!. She wriggled her nose in disgust, turned around and started down the hallway. (Mice don't cluck or bleat their annoyance, they just twitch their noses.)

   The library on her right wasn't worth a look. No drawers of any kind in there. That left only two rooms. The master bedroom at the end of the house was impossible. The Big Lady was always sitting at her desk in the daytime and both Big People slept there at night.  All that was left was the little green room, with its two windows and its big wooden chest of drawers. Drawers were dark and quiet. Drawers were good things. She would take a look.

    Just then, a pair of Big People feet thumped in the hallway and decided it. Terrified, Clarissa darted into the green room and scurried up the back of the dresser. Drawer four was empty. It could do, but she preferred something soft to lie in. There wasn't much time, though. Drawer three also was empty. She hurried up to drawer two. And, oh, the unbelievable gift on the inside of drawer two! It was dark and quiet like the others, but right in the middle was a fresh, clean bed of folded cotton. Soft, fluffy, perfectly nesty cotton. Clarissa scrambled into the middle of the pile, and suddenly... it was time! She chewed a quick hole in the top cloth and then little mice began to arrive. Oh, my!

   Minutes later, Clarissa was a happy mother. Her strength spent, she lay proudly next to her five pink babies. They had no fur, their eyes were closed, but to her they were lovely. Soon she would lick them into action and they would start nursing. But, just for a moment, she would rest and savor her triumph.

    Bang! The world heaved and rocked. Light! A Big Person screamed. Clarissa raced down the back of the dresser. Danger! Danger!!! What to do? She made for the knothole at the back of the linen closet and cowered, heart racing. How could she save her babies? Big People feet pounded in the hallway.

    More Big Ladies yelled. One of them laughed and said, "Oh, Phoebe, they must have chosen your drawer because you have those soft washcloths!" Another Big Lady said, "Well, the mother is gone and these babies won't survive. I'll at least put them out on the grass." Clarissa peeked out and saw her precious nest in a Big Lady's hand. Her babies! Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Oh, dear, dear dear!! 

   That was the end of the five little mice who were born in the green room at the farmhouse. It is a sad tale, but Clarissa got over her sadness with time. A few months later, she had another little family of mice and that time she was able to find a much better spot. She has never told me where it was, and even if I knew, I would never tell.

Edmund has suggested a moral to this story: If you are a mouse, be prudent, and stay out of Big People's houses!