fables of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 112
selected and edited by
D. L. Ashliman
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Now you must know that a town mouse once upon a time went on a visit to his cousin in the country. He was rough and ready, this cousin, but he loved his town friend and made him heartily welcome. Beans and bacon, cheese and bread, were all he had to offer, but he offered them freely. The town mouse rather turned up his long nose at this country fare, and said, "I cannot understand, cousin, how you can put up with such poor food as this, but of course you cannot expect anything better in the country; come you with me and I will show you how to live. When you have been in town a week you will wonder how you could ever have stood a country life." No sooner said than done: The two mice set off for the town and arrived at the town mouse's residence late at night.
"You will want some refreshment after our long journey," said the polite town mouse, and took his friend into the grand dining room. There they found the remains of a fine feast, and soon the two mice were eating up jellies and cakes and all that was nice. Suddenly they heard growling and barking.
"What is that?" said the country mouse.
"It is only the dogs of the house," answered the other.
"Only," said the country mouse, "I do not like that music at my dinner!" Just at that moment the door flew open; in came two huge mastiffs; and the two mice had to scamper down and run off.
"Good-bye, cousin," said the country mouse.
"What! Going so soon?" said the other.
"Yes," he replied. "Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear."
One day a country mouse in his poor home
Received an ancient friend, a mouse from Rome:
The host, though close and careful, to a guest
Could open still, so now he did his best.
He spares not oats or vetches: in his chaps
Raisins he brings and nibbled bacon-scraps,
Hoping by varied dainties to entice
His town-bred guest, so delicate and nice,
Who condescended graciously to touch
Thing after thing, but never would take much,
While he, the owner of the mansion, sate
On threshed-out straw, and spelt and darnels ate.
At length the townsman cries: "I wonder how
You can live here, friend, on this hill's rough brow:
Take my advice, and leave these ups and downs,
This hill and dale, for humankind and towns.
Come now, go home with me: remember, all
Who live on earth are mortal, great and small:
Then take, good sir, your pleasure while you may;
With life so short, 'twere wrong to lose a day."
This reasoning made the rustic's head turn round;
Forth from his hole he issues with a bound,
And they two make together for their mark,
In hopes to reach the city during dark.
The midnight sky was bending over all,
When they set foot within a stately hall,
Where couches of wrought ivory had been spread
With gorgeous coverlets of Tyrian red,
And viands piled up high in baskets lay,
The relics of a feast of yesterday.
The townsman does the honours, lays his guest
At ease upon a couch with crimson dressed,
Then nimbly moves in character of host,
And offers in succession boiled and roast;
Nay, like a well-trained slave, each wish prevents,
And tastes before the tit-bits he presents.
The guest, rejoicing in his altered fare,
Assumes in turn a genial diner's air,
When hark! a sudden banging of the door:
Each from his couch is tumbled on the floor:
Half dead, they scurry round the room, poor things,
While the whole house with barking mastiffs rings.
Then says the rustic: "It may do for you,
This life, but I don't like it; so adieu:
Give me my hole, secure from all alarms,
I'll prove that tares and vetches still have charms.
A rat from town, a country rat
Invited in the civilest way;
For dinner there was just to be
Ortolans and an entrement.
Upon a Turkey carpet soft
The noble feast at last was spread;
I leave you pretty well to guess
The merry, pleasant life they led.
Gay the repast, for plenty reigned,
Nothing was wanting to the fare;
But hardly had it well begun
Ere chance disturbed the friendly pair.
A sudden racket at the door
Alarmed them, and they made retreat;
The city rat was not the last,
His comrade followed fast and fleet.
The noise soon over, they returned,
As rats on such occasions do;
"Come," said the liberal citizen,
"And let us finish our ragout."
"Not a crumb more," the rustic said;
"Tomorrow you shall dine with me;
Don't think me jealous of your state,
Or all your royal luxury;
But then I eat so quiet at home,
And nothing dangerous is near;
Good-bye, my friend, I have no love
For pleasure when it's mixed with fear."
A mouse living in the town one day met a mouse which lived in the field. "Where do you come from?" asked the latter when she saw the town mouse.
"I come from yonder town," replied the first mouse.
"How is life going there with you?"
"Very well, indeed. I am living in the lap of luxury. Whatever I want of sweets or any other good things is to be found in abundance in my master's house. But how are you living?"
"I have nothing to complain of. You just come and see my stores. I have grain and nuts, and all the fruits of the tree and field in my storehouse."
The town mouse did not quite believe the story of her new friend, and, driven by curiosity, went with her to the latter's house. How great was her surprise when she found that the field mouse had spoken the truth; her garner was full of nuts and grain and other stores, and her mouth watered when she saw all the riches which were stored up there.
Then she turned to the field mouse and said, "Oh, yes, you have here a nice snug place and something to live upon, but you should come to my house and see what I have there. Your stock is as nothing compared with the riches which are mine."
The field mouse, who was rather simple by nature and trusted her new friend, went with her into the town to see what better things the other could have. She had never been into the town and did not know what her friend could mean when she boasted of her greater riches. So they went together, and the town mouse took her friend to her master's house. He was a grocer, and there were boxes and sacks full of every good thing the heart of a mouse could desire. When she saw all these riches, the field mouse said she could never have believed it, had she not seen it with her own eyes.
While they were talking together, who should come in but the cat. As soon as the town mouse saw the cat, she slipped quietly behind a box and hid herself. Her friend, who had never yet seen a cat, turned to her and asked her who that gentleman was who had come in so quietly.
"Do you not know who he is? Why, he is our priest, and he has come to see me. You must go and pay your respects to him and kiss his hand. See what a beautiful glossy coat he has on, and how his eyes sparkle, and how demurely he keeps his hands in the sleeves of his coat."
Not suspecting anything, the field mouse did as she was told and went up to the cat. He gave her at once his blessing, and the mouse had no need of another after that. The cat gave her extreme unction there and then. That was just what the town mouse had intended. When she saw how well stored the home of the field mouse was, she made up her mind to trap her and to kill her, so that she might take possession of all that the field mouse had gathered up. She had learned the ways of the townspeople and had acted up to them.
Once upon a time a town mouse met a country mouse on the outskirts of a wood. The country mouse was sitting under a hazel thicket plucking nuts.
"Busy harvesting, I see," said the town mouse. "Who would think of our meeting in this out-of-the-way part of the world?"
"Just so," said the country mouse.
"You are gathering nuts for your winter store?" asked the town mouse?
"I am obliged to do so if we intend having anything to live upon during the winter," said the country mouse.
"The husk is big and the nut full this year, enough to satisfy any hungry body," said the town mouse.
"Yes, you are right there," said the country mouse. And then she related how well she lived and how comfortable she was at home.
the town mouse maintained that she was the better off, but the country mouse said that nowhere could one be so well off as in the woods and hills. The town mouse, however, declared she was best off. And as they could not agree on this point they promised to visit one another at Christmas, then they could see for themselves which was really the most comfortable.
The first visit was to be paid by the town mouse.
Now, although the country mouse had moved down form the mountains for the winter, the road was long and tiring, and one had to travel up hill and down dale. The snow lay thick and deep, so the town mouse found it hard work to get on, and she became both tired and hungry before she reached the end of her journey.
"How nice it will be to get some food," she thought.
The country mouse had scraped together the best she had. There were nut kernels, polypoly and other sorts of roots, and many other good things which grow in woods and fields. She kept it all in a hole far under the ground, so the frost could not reach it, and close by was a running spring, open all the winter, so she could drink as much water as she liked. There was an abundance of all she had, and they ate both well and heartily. But the town mouse thought it was very poor fare indeed.
"One can, of course, keep boy and soul together on this," said she, "but I don't think much of it. Now you must be good enough to visit me and taste what we have."
Yes, that she would, and before long she set out. The town mouse had gathered together all the scraps from the Christmas fare which the woman of the house had dropped on the floor during the holidays -- bits of cheese, butter and tallow ends, cake crumbs, pastry, and many other good things. In the dish under the ale tap she had drink enough. In fact, the place was full of all kinds of dainties.
They ate and fared well. The country mouse seemed never to have had enough. She had never tasted such delicacies. But then she became thirsty, for she found the food both strong and rich, and now she wanted something to drink.
"We haven't far to go for the beer we shall drink," said the town mouse, and jumped upon the edge of the dish and drank until she was no longer thirsty. She did not drink too much, for she knew the Christmas beer was strong. The country mouse, however, thought the beer a splendid drink. She had never tasted anything but water, so she took one sip after another, but as she could not stand strong drink she became tipsy before she left the dish.
The drink got into her head and down into her toes, and she began running and jumping about from one beer barrel to the other, and to dance and tumble about on the shelves among the cups and mugs. She squeaked and screeched as if she were both drunk and mad. About her being drunk there was very little doubt.
"You must not carry on as if you had just come from the backwoods and make such a row and noise," said the town mouse. "The master of the house is a bailiff, and he is very strict indeed," she added.
The country mouse said she didn't care either for bailiffs or beggars. But the cat sat at the top of the cellar steps, lying in wait, and heard all the chatter and noise. When the woman of the house went down to draw some beer and lifted the trapdoor, the cat slipped by into the cellar and struck its claws into the county mouse. Then there was quite another sort of dance.
The town mouse slid back into her hole and sat in safety looking on, while the country mouse suddenly became sober, when she felt the claws of the cat in her back.
"Oh, my dear bailiff, of dearest bailiff, be merciful and spare my life, and I will tell you a fairy tale," she said.
"Well, go on," said the cat.
"Once upon a time there were two little mice," said the country mouse, squeaking slowly and pitifully, for she wanted to make the story last as long as she could.
"Then they were not lonely," said the cat dryly and curtly.
"And they had a steak which they were going to fry."
"Then they could not starve," said the cat.
"And they put it out on the roof to cool," said the country mouse.
"Then they did not burn themselves," said the cat.
"But there came a fox and a crow and ate it all up," said the country mouse.
"Then I'll eat you," said the cat.
But just at that moment the woman shut the trapdoor with a slam, which so startled the cat that she let ho her hold of the mouse. One bound and the country mouse found herself in the hole with the town mouse. From there a passage led out into the snow, and you may be sure the country mouse did not wait long before she set out homeward.
"And this is what you call living well and being best off," she said to the town mouse. "Heaven preserve me from having such a fine place and such a master! Why I only just got away with my life!"
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