The Yellow Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang

The Cat and the Mouse in Partnership

A cat had made acquaintance with a mouse, and had spoken so much of the great love and friendship she felt for her, that at last the Mouse consented to live in the same house with her, and to go shares in the housekeeping. ‘But we must provide for the winter or else we shall suffer hunger,’ said the Cat. ‘You, little Mouse, cannot venture everywhere in case you run at last into a trap.’ This good counsel was followed, and a little pot of fat was bought. But they did not know where to put it. At length, after long consultation, the Cat said, ‘I know of no place where it could be better put than in the church. No one will trouble to take it away from there. We will hide it in a corner, and we won’t touch it till we are in want.’ So the little pot was placed in safety; but it was not long before the Cat had a great longing for it, and said to the Mouse, ‘I wanted to tell you, little Mouse, that my cousin has a little son, white with brown spots, and she wants me to be godmother to it. Let me go out to-day, and do you take care of the house alone.’

‘Yes, go certainly,’ replied the Mouse, ‘and when you eat anything good, think of me; I should very much like a drop of the red christening wine.’

But it was all untrue. The Cat had no cousin, and had not been asked to be godmother. She went straight to the church, slunk to the little pot of fat, began to lick it, and licked the top off. Then she took a walk on the roofs of the town, looked at the view, stretched herself out in the sun, and licked her lips whenever she thought of the little pot of fat. As soon as it was evening she went home again.

‘Ah, here you are again!’ said the Mouse; ‘you must certainly have had an enjoyable day.’

‘It went off very well,’ answered the Cat.

‘What was the child’s name?’ asked the Mouse.

‘Top Off,’ said the Cat drily.

‘Topoff!’ echoed the Mouse, ‘it is indeed a wonderful and curious name. Is it in your family?’

‘What is there odd about it?’ said the Cat. ‘It is not worse than Breadthief, as your godchild is called.’

Not long after this another great longing came over the Cat. She said to the Mouse, ‘You must again be kind enough to look after the house alone, for I have been asked a second time to stand godmother, and as this child has a white ring round its neck, I cannot refuse.’

The kind Mouse agreed, but the Cat slunk under the town wall to the church, and ate up half of the pot of fat. ‘Nothing tastes better,’ said she, ‘than what one eats by oneself,’ and she was very much pleased with her day’s work. When she came home the Mouse asked, ‘What was this child called?’

‘Half Gone,’ answered the Cat.

‘Halfgone! what a name! I have never heard it in my life. I don’t believe it is in the calendar.’

Soon the Cat’s mouth began to water once more after her licking business. ‘All good things in threes,’ she said to the Mouse; ‘I have again to stand godmother. The child is quite black, and has very white paws, but not a single white hair on its body. This only happens once in two years, so you will let me go out?’

‘Topoff! Halfgone!’ repeated the Mouse, ‘they are such curious names; they make me very thoughtful.’

‘Oh, you sit at home in your dark grey coat and your long tail,’ said the Cat, ‘and you get fanciful. That comes of not going out in the day.’

The Mouse had a good cleaning out while the Cat was gone, and made the house tidy; but the greedy Cat ate the fat every bit up.

‘When it is all gone one can be at rest,’ she said to herself, and at night she came home sleek and satisfied. The Mouse asked at once after the third child’s name.

‘It won’t please you any better,’ said the Cat, ‘he was called Clean Gone.’

‘Cleangone!’ repeated the Mouse. ‘I do not believe that name has been printed any more than the others. Cleangone! What can it mean?’ She shook her head, curled herself up, and went to sleep.

From this time on no one asked the Cat to stand godmother; but when the winter came and there was nothing to be got outside, the Mouse remembered their provision and said, ‘Come, Cat, we will go to our pot of fat which we have stored away; it will taste very good.’

‘Yes, indeed,’ answered the Cat; ‘ it will taste as good to you as if you stretched your thin tongue out of the window.’

They started off, and when they reached it they found the pot in its place, but quite empty!

‘Ah,’ said the Mouse,’ ‘now I know what has happened! It has all come out! You are a true friend to me! You have eaten it all when you stood godmother; first the top off, then half of it gone, then ——’

‘Will you be quiet!’ screamed the Cat. ‘Another word and I will eat you up.’

‘Cleangone’ was already on the poor Mouse’s tongue, and scarcely was it out than the Cat made a spring at her, seized and swallowed her.

You see that is the way of the world.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/lang/andrew/l26yf/chapter1.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 22:03