ONCE upon a time there was a Mouse, who made his hole in a place where there were thousands and thousands of golden sovereigns buried in the ground. Now there was a Farmer who owned the land where this treasure was buried; but he did not know about it, or else of course he would have dug it up. He often noticed the little Mouse sitting with his head peeping out of the hole, but as he was a very kind Farmer, he never hurt the Mouse; and now and then when he was having his own dinner, he would throw the Mouse a bit of cheese.
The Mouse was very grateful to the Farmer, and wondered what he could do to show it. At last he thought of the treasure; for this Mouse was sensible enough to know that Farmers are very pleased to get a golden sovereign now and again. So one day, as the Farmer went by the hole, Mousie ran out with a golden sovereign in his mouth, and dropped it at the Farmer's feet. You can imagine how glad the Farmer was to see a golden sovereign. Indeed, it was the first one he had seen since the Corn Laws were abolished. So he thanked the Mouse, and went down to the village, and bought him a beautiful piece of meat. After this the Mouse every day brought the Farmer a golden sovereign, and every day the Farmer gave him a big chunk of meat. Thus in a few weeks Mousie grew quite fat.
But the Farmer had a big black cat that used to prowl about watching for mice. It used never to notice the Farmer's own favourite Mouse while the Mouse was thin; but when he grew sleek and fat and shiny, Grimalkin (which was the Cat's name) lay in wait for him one day and pounced upon him. Poor little Mousie was terrified.
"Please don't kill me, Mr. Grimalkin!" said Mousie.
"Why not? I'm hungry and you are fat!"
"But, sir, if you eat me now, you'll be hungry to-morrow, won't you?"
"Of course I shall!" said Grimalkin.
"Well," said Mousie, who had suddenly thought of a plan; "if you will only let me go, I'll bring you a beautiful juicy piece of meat every day!"
This was a tempting offer for Grimalkin, who was a lazy Cat, and liked sitting by the fire, and licking himself all over, better than hunting for mice.
"All right," said he; "only if you leave out one day, you're a dead mouse!" Then, with a frightful spit, bristling up all his whiskers and eyebrows, Grimalkin ran away.
So next day, when the Farmer gave Mousie his dinner, Mousie carried it off to the black Cat, and the black Cat spat and swore and ate it up, and away ran Mousie trembling. But by degrees Mousie grew thinner and thinner, because Grimalkin always had his dinner; and soon he was nothing but skin and bone. Then the Farmer noticed how thin his Mouse had become, so one day he asked the Mouse whether he was ill.
"No," said Mousie, "I'm not ill."
"What is the matter, then?" asked the Farmer.
"I never get any dinner now," said Mousie, with tears running down over his nose, "because Grimalkin eats it all!" Then he told the Farmer about the bargain he had made with Grimalkin.
Now the Farmer had a beautiful piece of glass, with a hole in the middle. I think it was an inkstand, but I am not sure. So he took this piece of glass and put Mousie inside it, and turned it upside down upon the ground in front of Mousie's hole. "Now," said he, "next time Grimalkin comes for your dinner, tell him you have none for him, and see what will happen."
So next day up comes Grimalkin for his dinner, spitting and looking very fierce.
"Meat! meat!" says he to the Mouse.
"Get off, vile thief!" says Mousie, "I've no meat for the likes of you!"
At this Grimalkin could hardly believe his ears. He was in a rage, I can tell you; and, without stopping to think, pounced upon Mousie, and swallowed him, inkstand and all. You see, as it was all glass, Grimalkin did not know that there was any inkstand there, because he saw the Mouse through it.
Now cats can digest a good deal, but they can't digest a glass inkstand. So Grimalkin, when he had swallowed the Mouse and the inkstand, felt a pain inside; and this got worse and worse, until at last he died. And then Mousie crept out of the inkstand, and crawled up through Grimalkin's throat, and went back to his hole again. And there he lived all his life in happiness, every day bringing a golden sovereign to the Farmer, who gave him every day a beautiful dinner of meat.