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THE VERY SHORT STORY OF THE FOOLISH LITTLE MOUSE
HE Mice who lived in the barn and around the granaries had
many cousins living on
the farm who were pleasant people to know. Any one
could tell by looking at them
that they were related, yet there were differences in
size, in the coloring of their
fur, in their voices, and most of all in their ways of
living. Some of these
cousins would come to visit at the barn in winter, when
there was little to eat in
the fields. The Meadow Mice never did this. They were
friendly with the people who
came from the farmyard to graze in the meadow, yet when
they were asked to return
the call, they said, "No, thank you. We are an
 family, and we
never enter houses. We do not often go to the
farmyard, but we are always glad to
see you here. Come again."
When the Cows are in the meadow, they watch for these
tiny people, and stop short if
they hear their voices from the grass near by. Of
course the Horses are careful,
for Horses will never step on any person, large or
small, if they can help it. They
are very particular about this.
All through the meadow you can see, if you look
sharply, shallow winding paths among
the grasses, and these paths are worn by the running to
and fro of the Meadow Mice.
Their homes are in stumps of trees or in the higher
ground near the ditches.
In these homes the baby Meadow Mice stay until they are
large enough to go out
into the great world and eat roots, grasses, and seeds
with their fathers and
mothers. Sometimes they do go out a little way with
their mother before this,
 and they go in a very funny fashion. Of course, when
they are babies, they drink
warm milk from her body as the children of most
four-legged people do. Sometimes a
young Meadow Mouse does not want to stop drinking his
milk when it is time for his
mother to leave the nest, so he just hangs on to her
with his tiny, toothless mouth,
and when she goes she drags him along on the ground
beside her. The ground is
rather rough for such soft little babies, and they do
not go far in this way, but
are glad enough to snuggle down again with their
brothers and sisters.
There is no danger of their being lonely, even when
their mother is away, for the
Meadow Mice have large families, and where there are
ten babies of the same age, or
even only six, which is thought a small family among
their people, it is not possible
for one to feel alone.
There were two fine Meadow Mice who
 built their
nest in the bank of a ditch and
were much liked by all their relatives. They had
raised many children to full-grown
Mousehood, and were kind and wise parents. When their
children were married and had
homes of their own, they still liked to come back to
visit. The father and mother
were gentle and kindly, as all Mice are, and were
almost as handsome as when they
first began to gnaw. Nobody could say that he ever saw
a bit of dust on either of
The brown fur of the upper part of their bodies and the
grayish-white fur underneath
always lay sleek and tidy, and from their long
whiskers to the tips of their
hairless tails, they were as dainty as possible. That
was one reason why they were
so fine-looking, for you know it makes no difference
how beautiful one may be in the
first place, if he does not try to keep clean he is
not pleasant to look at, while
many quite plain people are
 charming because they
look well and happy and
Now this pair of Mice had eight Mouse babies in their
nest. The babies were no
larger than Bumble Bees at first and very pink. This
was not because their fur was
pink, but only because it was so very short that
through it and their thin skin one
saw the glow of the red blood in their veins.
"Did you ever see such beautiful babies?" said their
mother proudly to her
neighbors. "They are certainly the finest I ever had."
Her friends smiled, for she
always said the same thing whenever she had little
ones. Yet they understood, for
they had children of their own, and knew that although
mothers love all alike, there
is always a time when the youngest seems the most
promising. That is before they
are old enough to be naughty.
The days passed, and the eight baby Meadow Mice ate and
slept and pushed each other
around, and talked in their
 sweet, squeaky little
voices. They were less pink
every day and more the color of their father and
mother. They grew, too, so fast
that the nest was hardly large enough for them, and the
teeth were showing in their
tiny pink mouths. Their mother saw that they would
soon be ready to go out into the
world, and she began to teach them the things they
needed to know. She took them
outside the nest each pleasant day and gave them
lessons in running and gnawing, and
showed them how to crouch down on the brown earth and
lie still until danger was
past. After she had told them many things, she would
ask them short questions to
make sure that they remembered.
"How many great dangers are there?" she said.
"Five," answered the little Mice.
"What are they?"
"Hawks, Owls, Weasels, Cats, and men."
 "Tell me about Hawks."
"Hawks are big birds who seem to float in the air.
They have very sharp eyes, and
when they see a Mouse they drop suddenly down and catch
him. They fly in the
"Tell me about Owls."
"They are big birds who fly by night without making any
noise. They can see from
far away, and they catch Mice."
"Tell me about Weasels."
"They are slender little animals, nearly twice as long
as a Mouse. They have small
heads, four short legs, and sharp claws; have brown fur
on their backs and white
underneath, and sometimes, when the weather is very
cold, they turn white all
"Tell me about Cats."
"Cats are very much bigger than Weasels, and are of
many colors. They have long
tails and whiskers, and dreadful great eyes. They walk
on four legs, but make
 no noise because they have cushions on their feet."
"Tell me about men."
"Men are very big, two-legged people, and when they are
fully grown are taller than
Cows. They make noise in walking, and they can neither
smell nor see us from
"And what are you to do when you see these dangers
"We are to run away as fast as we can from Hawks,
Weasels, Owls, and Cats. If a man
comes near us, we are to lie perfectly still and watch
him, and are not to move
unless we are sure that he sees us or is likely to
step on us. Men do not know so
much about Mice as the other dangers do."
"And what if you are not sure that the creature is a
Hawk, an Owl, a Weasel or a Cat?"
"If we even think it may be, we are to run."
 "When are you to run?"
"Say that again."
"We are to run at once."
"Very good. That is all for to-day."
You can see how well the Meadow Mouse mother brought up
her children, and how
carefully she taught them about life. If they had been
wise and always minded her,
they would have saved themselves much trouble.
Seven of them were dutiful and obedient, but the
largest of the eight, and the
finest-looking, liked to decide things for himself, and
often laughed at his
brothers and sisters for being afraid. Because he was
so big and handsome, and
spoke in such a dashing way, they sometimes wondered if
he didn't know as much as
One sunshiny day, when all the eight children were
playing and feeding together in
the short grass, one of them saw a great
bird in the air. "Oh, look!"
she cried. "That may be a Hawk. We'd better run."
"Pooh!" said the biggest little Meadow Mouse. "Who's afraid?"
"Mother said to run," they squeaked, and seven long
bare tails whisked out of sight
under a stump.
"Ho-ho!" said the biggest little Meadow Mouse. "Before
I'd be so scared! I dare
you to come back! I dare you to——"
Just then the Hawk swooped down. And that is the end
of the story, for after that,
there was no foolish little Meadow Mouse to tell