The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse

The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse

Johnny Town-mouse was born in a cupboard. Timmy Willie was born in a garden.

Timmy Willie was a little country mouse who went to town by mistake in a hamper. 

The gardener sent vegetables to town once a week by a carrier; he packed them

in a big hamper.

The gardener left the hamper by the garden gate so that the carrier could pick it up

 when he passed. Timmy Willie crept in through a hole in the wicker-work, and after

 eating some peas—Timmy Willie fell fast asleep.

He awoke in fright while the hamper was being lifted into the carrier’s cart. 

Then there was a jolting and a clattering of horse’s feet; other packages were thrown

 in; for miles and miles—jolt—jolt—jolt! and Timmy Willie trembled amongst 

the jumbled-up vegetables.

At last, the cart stopped at a house, where the hamper was taken out, carried in, 

and set down. The cook gave the carrier sixpence; the back door banged, and the cart

 rumbled away. But there was no quiet; there seemed to be hundreds of carts passing.

 Dogs barked; boys whistled in the street; the cook laughed; the parlor maid ran up

and downstairs; and a canary sang like a steam engine.

Timmy Willie, who had lived all his life in a garden, was almost frightened to death.

 Presently the cook opened the hamper and began to unpack the vegetables. 

Out sprang the terrified Timmy Willie.

Up jumped the cook on a chair, exclaiming “A mouse! a mouse! Call the cat! Fetch me

 the poker, Sarah!” Timmy Willie did not wait for Sarah with the poker; he rushed along

 the skirting board till he came to a little hole, and in he popped.

He dropped half a foot, and crashed into the middle of a mouse dinner party, breaking

 three glasses.—”Who in the world is this?” inquired Johnny Town-mouse. But after 

the first exclamation of surprise, he instantly recovered his manners.

With the utmost politeness, he introduced Timmy Willie to nine other mice, all with long

 tails and white neckties. Timmy Willie’s own tail was insignificant. 

Johnny Town-mouse and his friends noticed it, but they were too well-bred to make

 personal remarks; only one of them asked Timmy Willie if he had ever been in a trap.

The dinner was of eight courses; not much of anything, but truly elegant. 

All the dishes were unknown to Timmy Willie, who would have been a little afraid

 of tasting them; only he was very hungry and very anxious to behave with company

 manners. The continual noise upstairs made him so nervous, that he dropped a plate.

 “Never mind, they don’t belong to us,” said Johnny.

“Why don’t those youngsters come back with the dessert?” It should be explained 

that two young mice, who were waiting on the others, went skirmishing upstairs 

to the kitchen between courses. Several times they had come tumbling in,

 squeaking and laughing; Timmy Willie learned with horror that they were being 

chased by the cat. His appetite failed, and he felt faint. 

“Try some jelly?” said Johnny Town-mouse.

“No? Would you rather go to bed? I will show you a most comfortable sofa pillow.”

The sofa pillow had a hole in it. Johnny Town-mouse quite honestly recommended it

 as the best bed, kept exclusively for visitors. But the sofa smelt of cats. Timmy Willie

 preferred to spend a miserable night under the fender.

It was just the same the next day. An excellent breakfast was provided—for mice

 accustomed to eating bacon; but Timmy Willie had been reared on roots and salad.

 Johnny Town-mouse and his friends racketed about under the floors and came boldly

 out all over the house in the evening. One particularly loud crash had been caused 

by Sarah tumbling downstairs with the tea tray; there were crumbs and sugar 

and smears of jam to be collected, in spite of the cat.

Timmy Willie longed to be at home in his peaceful nest on a sunny bank.

 The food disagreed with him; the noise prevented him from sleeping. In a few days, 

he grew so thin that Johnny Town-mouse noticed it, and questioned him. He listened

 to Timmy Willie’s story and inquired about the garden. “It sounds rather a dull place.

 What do you do when it rains?”

“When it rains, I sit in my little sandy burrow and shell corn and seeds from my Autumn store. I peep out at the throstles and blackbirds on the lawn, and my friend Cock Robin. And when the sun comes out again, you should see my garden and the flowers—roses and pinks and pansies—no noise except the birds and bees, and the lambs in the meadows.”

“There goes that cat again!” exclaimed Johnny Town-mouse. When they had taken refuge in the coal cellar he resumed the conversation; “I confess I am a little disappointed; we have endeavored to entertain you, Timothy William.”

“Oh yes, yes, you have been most kind; but I do feel so ill,” said Timmy Willie.

“It may be that your teeth and digestion are unaccustomed to our food; perhaps it might be wiser for you to return in the hamper.”

“Oh? Oh!” cried Timmy Willie.

“Why of course for the matter of that we could have sent you back last week,” said Johnny rather huffily—”did you not know that the hamper goes back empty on Saturdays?”

So Timmy Willie said goodbye to his new friends, and hid in the hamper with a crumb

 of the cake and a withered cabbage leaf; and after much jolting, he was set down

 safely in his own garden.

Sometimes on Saturdays, he went to look at the hamper lying by the gate, but he knew

 better than to get in again. And nobody got out, though Johnny Town-mouse had half

 promised a visit.

The winter passed; the sun came out again; Timmy Willie sat by his burrow warming

 his little fur coat and sniffing the smell of violets and spring grass. He had nearly

 forgotten his visit to town. When up the sandy path all spick and span with a brown

 leather bag came Johnny Town-mouse!

Timmy Willie received him with open arms.

 “You have come at the best of all the year, we will have herb pudding and sit
in the sun.”

“H’m’m! it is a little damp,” said Johnny Town-mouse, who was carrying his tail under his arm, out of the mud.

“What is that fearful noise?” he started violently.

“That?” said Timmy Willie, “that is only a cow; I will beg a little milk; they are quite harmless unless they happen to lie down upon you. How are all our friends?”

Johnny’s account was rather middling. He explained why he was paying his visit so

 early in the season; the family had gone to the seaside for Easter; the cook was doing

 spring cleaning, on board wages, with particular instructions to clear out the mice.

There were four kittens, and the cat had killed the canary.

“They say we did it; but I know better,” said Johnny Town-mouse. “Whatever is that fearful racket?”

“That is only the lawnmower; I will fetch some of the grass clippings presently to make your bed. I am sure you had better settle in the country, Johnny.”

“H’m’m—we shall see by Tuesday week; the hamper is stopped while they are at the seaside.”

“I am sure you will never want to live in town again,” said Timmy Willie.

But he did. He went back to the very next hamper of vegetables; he said it was

 too quiet!!

One place suits one person, and another place suits another person. For my part, 

I prefer to live in the country, like Timmy Willie.

The End