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´╗┐Title: The Graymouse Family
Author: Leonard, Nellie Mabel
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Graymouse Family" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Juliet Sutherland, S. R. Ellison, Ted Garvin, and the Online Distributed


THE GRAYMOUSE FAMILY

BY NELLIE M. LEONARD


CHAPTER I     THE GRAYMOUSE HOME

CHAPTER II    UNCLE SQUEAKY

CHAPTER III   TREASURES FROM THE PLAY-ROOM

CHAPTER IV   MOTHER GRAYMOUSE KEEPS SCHOOL

CHAPTER V    LIMPY-TOES IS LOST

CHAPTER VI  BUSTER AND THE CHOCOLATES

CHAPTER VII SILVER EARS' ADVENTURE

CHAPTER VIII VISITING MRS. FIELD-MOUSE

CHAPTER IX   MOVING DAYS

CHAPTER X    THE CHRISTMAS TREE



ILLUSTRATIONS

That Wicked Thomas Cat is prowling about and I had to be careful

The little Graymouse children greeted Uncle Squeaky gleefully

"I might manage to tell one more Story," he chuckled

There was a pretty daughter who loved Bright Ribbons

The door flew open and in ran Ruth and Robert Giant

How shall we ever manage to get it home?

"That cross old Norah"

Buster folded his paws in his lap and sang very sweetly

"How nice the Apples smell," said Buster

"My poor, dear Limpy-toes," she sobbed

"Tell us all about it?" they begged

It was a hot summer day

Grand-daddy Whiskers with a pan of warm biscuits under his arm

The only food in sight is set around on the pantry shelves in traps

A busy little procession marched to the barn

"Jolly little mice are we"



GRAYMOUSE FAMILY

[Illustration]


CHAPTER I

THE GRAYMOUSE HOME

Mother Graymouse, with her family lived in a cosy attic which was as
snug and comfortable as any good mouse could wish.

Her children were named Limpy-toes, Silver Ears, Buster, Teenty and
Tiny, and Baby Squealer. Although they had many faults, upon the
whole they were good children and made a happy family.

On pleasant mornings, the sun shone in bright and warm through the
dainty cobweb curtains of their east window. In the summer-time,
robins and orioles sang sweetly among the green branches of the maple
tree which shaded the west window. Even when it stormed, Mother
Graymouse and her little ones enjoyed the patter, patter of the
rain-drops upon the roof and window-panes. They were thankful for
such a good home.

The house in which they lived belonged to a family of giants. There
was Mr. Giant, his wife, and two little Giants. The little girl was a
pretty child named Ruth, with blue eyes and long yellow curls. Her
brother, Robert, looked almost exactly like her, except that his
yellow curls were shorter, he wore bigger boots that made more noise,
and instead of playing with dolls and tea-sets he liked balls and
bats and air-rifles.

After Mr. Giant had fitted up half of the attic for his children's
play-room, life was much jollier for the little Graymouses. The steam
heat from the play-room came through the cracks and made their home
as warm as toast.

Limpy-toes and Silver Ears worked busily away until there were three
holes through which they could steal softly in and watch Ruth and
Robert at their play.

Since Christmas the attic had become a merry, noisy place.

"I wonder how those young Giants manage to make such a racket?"
grumbled Mother Graymouse. "I've been trying for an hour to rock Baby
Squealer to sleep and the poor dear is wide awake now. Such a din,
I've seldom heard."

"It's their Christmas presents, Mammy," replied Silver Ears. "Ruth
has a toy piano."

"And Robert blows his new cornet and beats his drum," finished
Limpy-toes.

"He must like to work so hard," drawled Buster.

"Oh, it's jolly fun!" cried Tiny.

"It's jolly fun," echoed her twin Teenty.

"Maybe it is," said Mother Graymouse, "but I'd like to chew a hole in
those toys that would let out all the noise. With their racket and
Squealer's howling, I'm almost crazy. Here, Silver Ears, sit by the
cradle and amuse the baby. I must try to find something for our
supper. Buster, I want you to help the twins set the dishes on the
table while I am gone. Don't shirk now. Even if Limpy-toes is so
lame, he helps me far more than you do. See the nice dish he is
carving out of a walnut shell for me. I shall cook his favorite
pudding in it to-morrow as a reward for his patient toil. Aren't you
ashamed to be idle when your poor crippled brother tries so hard to
help his mother? Now be good children and don't quarrel." She slipped
on her gray coat and the bonnet trimmed with blue ribbons and whisked
out of sight down a hole in one corner of the attic floor.

Silver Ears left little Squealer to cry himself to sleep while she
stood on tiptoe before the old cracked looking-glass and tied a pink
ribbon in a bow under her chin.

"Where did you get that ribbon, Miss Prinky?" asked Buster.

"In the play-room," laughed Silver Ears. "It used to belong to the
doll, but now it belongs to me."

"You look very sweet, Silvy," lisped Tiny.

"You're sweet, Silvy," chimed in Teenty.

Silver Ears made them a charming bow. "I thank you, twinnies! I'll
bring you both something nice from the play-room some day. Now hurry!
Mammy will soon return and you haven't even laid the table-cloth. Run
and get the spoons from the cupboard, Buster, or I'll tell Mammy to
put you to bed without any supper. Oh, that baby! Can't you jiggle
the cradle, Limpy-toes, while you finish digging out the dish?"

Mother Graymouse looked very sober when she came home. She took a
cracker and some stale cake crumbs from her pocket.

"This is all I could get to-night, my dears," she explained sadly.
"That wicked Thomas Cat is prowling about and I had to be careful. It
is snowing and the drifts are very deep, so I did not dare go across
the street to the store. Ah well, we shall not starve."

"Never mind, Mammy," said Limpy-toes. "Crackers and cake crumbs are
nice."

[Illustration: That Wicked Thomas Cat is prowling about and I had to
be careful.]

"By and by it will be summer, Mammy, and then we can all go out to
hunt for food," added Silver Ears cheerfully.

"But I want some cheese with my cracker," whimpered Buster.

"When your poor Daddy was alive, we had cheese or meat for every
meal. He was a wonderful provider. And so clever! What other family
has a cradle like ours? And my rocking-chair--I'm quite proud of it.
He made 'em all,--every stick of furniture we have, with his own
clever paws. Poor Daddy, I miss him so! It is a cold world for a lone
widow to be left in with six small children." Mother Graymouse sighed
and wiped a tear away with her handkerchief.

The five little mice tiptoed to their places at the table very
quietly, for Limpy-toes had rocked Baby Squealer to sleep at last.
They ate their supper in silence. Only Tiny and Teenty whispered and
giggled softly to each other.

Suddenly there was a great scrambling and scratching outside.

"It is Uncle Squeaky!" cried Limpy-toes.

"He's coming up the elevator," decided Silver Ears.

"Oh, how lovely to have a visit from Uncle Squeaky on a snow-stormy
night!" and the twins ran a race to the attic entrance.

"Boo-hoo!" cried Baby Squealer.


CHAPTER II

UNCLE SQUEAKY

The little Graymouse children greeted Uncle Squeaky gleefully. Silver
Ears took his fur cap and cane, Limpy-toes hung up his great-coat,
and the twins captured both his kindly paws and danced back to the
chimney corner with him.

Buster was such a fat, lazy fellow that he just sat upon his little
stool and waited for his uncle to come to him.

"Howdy do, Uncle Squeaky?" he said as the others drew their little
red-painted stools into a half circle before Uncle Squeaky's
arm-chair. "Have you any peppermints in your pocket?"

"And will you please tell us a real exciting story?" begged Silver
Ears.

Uncle Squeaky laughed until tiny wrinkles came all around his
twinkling, black eyes and he looked ever so pleasant.

"Just listen to that, Ma Graymouse!" he cried.

[Illustration: _The little Graymouse children greeted Uncle Squeaky
gleefully._]

"Just listen to that! One would think I was a walking candy store and
a story book, all in one. Very sorry, Buster Boy, but I haven't a
single peppermint in my pocket. I think you ought not to eat so much
candy. You are too fat, already. As for stories, you kiddies have
heard every tale that this old gray head holds, time and time again."

He watched the five sober little faces as they sat upon their
red-painted stools with their paws folded primly in their laps. Then
he winked slyly at Mother Graymouse. "Oh, well, if you are going to
feel as bad as all that, perhaps I might manage to tell you one more
story," he chuckled. "But I think Silver Ears will hardly call it
exciting. And I wonder if you little folk could make some
checkermints do?"

He drew forth a handful of pink candies from his pocket and gave them
three apiece.

"Bless my stars, how that little Squealer does squeal! Here, Ma
Graymouse, stuff his mouth with this candy and I will begin my
story:"

[Illustration: "I might manage to tell one more Story, he chuckled."]

"Once upon a time, away up in an attic, so high that it made their
fat old uncle puff to climb up to their dwelling, there lived a widow
and her six children. Their father met a sad death a short time ago
and so her children had to be very brave and work hard to help their
dear mother."

"Sniff! Sniff!" went Mother Graymouse behind her handkerchief.

"Boo-hoo!" cried Baby Squealer.

Uncle Squeaky passed Mother Graymouse another checkermint for the
baby and went on with his story:

"The oldest son was much like his Daddy, very wise and clever at
making things. He was somewhat lame as he had lost the toes of one
foot in a trap when he was a small mouse, too small to be wise."

"Limpy-toes!" they cried in a chorus.

"And a great comfort he is, to be sure," put in Mother Graymouse
heartily.

[Illustration: There was a pretty daughter who loved Bright Ribbons.]

"And there was a pretty daughter who loved bright ribbons and spent
quite a good deal of time dancing before the looking-glass. But she
was good-natured and helpful, with all her gay ways and dainty
habits, and every one who knew her loved her."

"Silver Ears, of course!" shouted the others.

"The third little fellow resembled his Grand-daddy Whiskers,"
continued Uncle Squeaky. "He was fat as a butter ball, so he could
not squeeze through holes to hunt for food with the others. He ate so
many goodies that he was too tired to do much work, so he had to sit
on his little red stool most of the time. But he could sometimes sing
the baby to sleep, which was a great blessing. He was a sweet singer
and now he is going to sing us a song. Wake up, Buster Boy, and give
us a right good tune."

Buster blinked sleepily.

"It is rather warm in this chimney corner," excused Mother Graymouse.
"Now, Buster, sing your newest song for Uncle Squeaky; that's a good
child."

Buster rubbed his sleepy eyes and began:

   "Cheese oh! Merry oh!
    Apple pie and cream;
    Cheese oh! Merry oh!
    Pudding that's a dream.

   "Heigh oh! Merry oh!
    Spice cake's very nice;
    Heigh oh! Merry oh!
    We are happy mice."

"A voice just like his poor Daddy's," sighed Mother Graymouse, "and
so he is a comfort, too."

"Then there was a pair of twins," resumed Uncle Squeaky. "The two of
'em wouldn't make one good sized mouse. But it did not take much
stuff for their dresses and they could steal through the tiniest,
teentiest holes, which was often very handy for the whole family."

How they all clapped for Tiny and Teenty!

"Hush!" cautioned Mother Graymouse. "If we make too much noise, the
Giant may be angry and turn us out of our cosy home."

"Then there was a small baby; he was rightly named Squealer," added
Uncle Squeaky dryly. "Well, one stormy night when the snow was packed
against the windows so you couldn't even peep out, their old uncle
made them a visit. He reminded them that once again it was New Year's
Eve." He paused solemnly.

"And so we must make new resolutions," smiled Silver Ears.

"Very good," agreed Uncle Squeaky. "Suppose you begin."

"I will obey my mother," said Silver Ears.

"I will try to take poor Daddy's place," said Limpy-toes.

"I will mind the baby," said Tiny.

"I will mind baby, too," said Teenty.

"Your turn, Buster," reminded Uncle Squeaky.

"I will try to wake up mornings," said Buster.

"And not eat so much, my boy. And do a little more work; it is good
exercise," advised Uncle Squeaky in a rather severe tone.

"Now that is fine. Good little mice are always obedient and helpful.
I think, Ma Graymouse, that you ought to be very happy and contented
this year with such dutiful kiddies. Now it is getting late. I must
tell you the good news which was my real errand, and then be gone.
Granny and Grand-daddy Whiskers have met with great good fortune.
They have moved up one flight into the pantry closet. They say the
air there is very fine--all sorts of delicious odors. And food! Why,
it is hard to choose the bill of fare, there's so many goodies laying
around! Granny wishes you to visit her and bring all the
kiddies,--especially Buster," he grinned. "Good night. A happy New
Year to you all!"

"Happy New Year, Uncle Squeaky!" they called in chorus. "Bring your
fiddle next time, uncle," coaxed Silver Ears, as he pulled his fur
cap down snugly.

"And don't forget the checkermints," drawled Buster from his little
red stool.


CHAPTER III

TREASURES FROM THE PLAY-ROOM

Tiny and Teenty were inquisitive little twins. One fine day, when
Mother Graymouse had taken Baby Squealer down cellar to call upon
Aunt and Uncle Squeaky, and Limpy-toes had been sent to the store
across the street, they planned a pleasure trip of their own.

"Silvy and Limpy-toes often visit the playroom and have a lovely
time," whispered Tiny. "Let's go, you and I."

"Let's go!" agreed Teenty, clapping her paws.

"We'll stay just as long as we wish," planned Tiny.

"So we will. It will be good fun," answered Teenty.

Silver Ears heard them whispering and giggling together, but she was
busy making herself a blue velvet hood from some pieces that Mother
Graymouse had found in an old trunk. So she never noticed when Tiny
and Teenty slipped through a hole that led to the play-room.

"Oh, isn't it grand to come all by ourselves!" whispered Tiny.

"Isn't it grand!" echoed Teenty.

"Mammy Graymouse will think we are old enough to look out for
ourselves if only we can find something nice to take home to her,"
went on Tiny. "Oh, see, Teenty, they haven't thrown away their
Christmas tree, yet! I smell goodies. Why, it is pop-corn! But I
never saw it growing on a string before. Hurry and pull it off before
the young giants come."

Tiny and Teenty cut the strings of pop-corn with their sharp teeth
and they fell softly to the carpet.

All at once, the door flew open and in ran Ruth and Robert Giant.

Tiny and Teenty scrambled out of sight under the sofa pillows and sat
tremblingly holding each other's cold little paws, while their hearts
went thumpity-thump!

[Illustration: The door flew open and in ran Ruth and Robert Giant]

"Norah must throw out this tree to-day," said Ruth Giant. "It has
stood here nearly a month. The hemlock is falling all over the
carpet."

"Even the pop-corn is falling," laughed Robert. "I am going to draw a
picture of the tree and color it with my new paints."

"And I will read another chapter in my book before papa comes back
with the auto."

It was so still in the play-room that the poor scared twins under the
pillows were afraid the Giant children would hear their hearts
beating pitty-pat! pitty-pat! It seemed a long, long time before Maid
Norah's freckly face appeared in the doorway.

"Your pa says you're to hurry if you want to ride in the auto with
him," she announced.

Flying footsteps, slamming doors, and then the play-room was
deserted.

Tiny and Teenty crept shyly from their hiding-place, feeling very
stiff.

"Oh, see, Teenty!" cried Tiny. "There's a bag of Christmas candy away
up in the tree. The young Giants did not find it." Up among the
branches she scrambled, almost to the tip-top of the tall tree.

Her sharp white teeth cut the string arid with a bang, down fell
their prize. Then Tiny swung herself nimbly to the floor.

"Such a lot of candy! Won't Buster grin," laughed Tiny as she caught
up a string of pop-corn and started for home.

Teenty took another string and followed after her sister.

"See, Silvy, what a nice lot of pop-corn we have brought," said Tiny.

"See my nice pop-corn, too," echoed Teenty.

"Why, isn't that lovely!" cried Silver Ears. "I will put it away
safely on the cupboard shelf and perhaps Mammy will make us a
pop-corn pudding."

"And, Silvy," went on Tiny eagerly, "there's a bag of candy, oh, a
very big bag of candy, on the play-room floor."

"It's a very big bag of candy," said Teenty.

Buster pricked up his ears. "Shall I help you bring it home?" he
offered. "Oh, please do. And Silvy, too, for it's a real giant bag of
candy," explained Tiny, excitedly.

So they all four marched into the play-room and tugged and tugged
until they had pulled the candy bag close to the biggest hole. But oh
dear me! Even the biggest hole was ever so much too small.

Silver Ears sat down and scratched her head thoughtfully. "How shall
we ever manage to get it home?" she asked.

"I know," planned Buster. "Let's eat it right here. That is a nice
easy way."

"Oh, no," said Silver Ears. "The Giants might come back, or old Tom.
Besides, I want Limpy-toes and Squealer and Mammy to share our
goodies. We will untie the string and take out the candies. Buster
and Tiny must go through the hole and Teenty and I will push the
candies through, one piece at a time."

"That is hard work," grumbled Buster. "My way was ever so much
easier."

Silver Ears gave the fat, lazy, little fellow a shove that sent him
squealing through the hole.

[Illustration: How shall we ever manage to get it home?]

Tiny followed quickly after. Soon the four little mice were busy
shovelling candy. It was rather hard work; "almost as bad as
shovelling coal into a bin," Buster thought.

"Silvy, make Buster help me," complained Tiny. "He is just sucking
the candy off his paws and I'm most buried up."

"Well, my paws are all sticky," drawled Buster.

"Get to work, Buster, and help Tiny," called Silver Ears, sharply,
"or I'll come through the hole and shake you till you'll see stars."

At last every stick of the pretty colored candy was pushed through
into the Graymouse side of the attic. Teenty frisked through and
Silver Ears danced after her, with the candy bag rolled in a little
bundle under one arm.

When Mother Graymouse came home just at dusk, after a delightful
visit with Aunt Squeaky and all the little Cousin Squeakies, a fine
surprise awaited her.

Limpy-toes had returned from the store with plenty of cheese, a slice
of boiled ham and some cute little oyster crackers. Silver Ears and
the twins had set the table. At each place they had laid a stick of
red and white striped candy.

The cupboard door was ajar, and even before Mother Graymouse had put
Baby Squealer in his cradle, or taken off her bonnet, she caught
sight of the heap of Christmas candies and the popcorn, which looked
like a white snow-bank upon the cupboard shelf.

"Sniff! Sniff!" Out came Mammy's handkerchief as she sank into her
rocking chair, bonnet, baby and all.

"Boo-hoo!" cried Baby Squealer.

The five little mice looked dismayed.

"What is the trouble now, Mammy?" asked Silver Ears, sadly. "We
thought you would be glad. Just see this candy bag. Won't it make a
nice shopping bag for you if we make it smaller?"

Mother Graymouse wiped her eyes.

"And so I am glad, my dear Silvy," she smiled. "Did ever a poor widow
mouse have such good, helpful children? When I'm sad, I cry. And when
I'm glad, I cry, also. Your poor Daddy used to think it very queer.
But never mind, my dears. Bring your little stools and we will eat
this splendid supper before the tea gets cold."


CHAPTER IV

MOTHER GRAYMOUSE KEEPS SCHOOL

Silver Ears was very angry and excited one morning when she returned
from a visit to the play-room. Her eyes were pink and swollen from
crying as she sat beside Squealer in the chimney corner.

"She is a hateful old Norah, Mammy," she burst out at last. "Ruth
Giant wants me to be her little pet mouse. I heard her tell Robert.
And she tossed me the nicest bit of cake I ever tasted. It was
frosted and stuffed with strawberry jam.

"Then that horrid old Norah Maid came in and shoo-ed me with her
broom. I hid under the doll's bed. You wouldn't believe the bad
things that freckly-faced Norah said. She told Ruth Giant that she
wasn't going to have nasty little mice around, running up her skirts,
not if she knew it. She stuck her snubby nose up in the air and said
it seemed as if the room smelled mousey. Then when I started to run
home, because I couldn't listen to such talk a minute longer, she
cried--'There he goes now, Miss Ruth! The nasty, thieving, little
beast! If there's a creature I can't abide, it's a mouse, to be
sure!'

"I'm not a nasty little beast, am I, Mammy? I have a nice warm bath
every Saturday night."

"Every Saturday night, the whole six of you," agreed Mother Graymouse
wagging her head proudly. "And what could a body ask more of a neat
mother mouse with a big family?"

"The Giants have a bath every morning," said Limpy-toes. "Granny
Whiskers says so, and of course Granny knows."

"A bath every morning!" cried Silver Ears. "Just think of that."

"Just imagine it!" drawled Buster.

"Well, they must be very dirty children," decided Mother Graymouse.
"A bath every morning! I'd be ashamed if my children could not keep
clean longer than that. Ruth Giant isn't a bit cleaner, sweeter, nor
daintier than my pretty Silver Ears, if I do say so, as shouldn't."

"I'm not a thief either, Mammy," sobbed Silver Ears.

"When that Maid Norah goes about killing flies by the dozens, does
she call herself a murderer?" demanded Mother Graymouse with
indignation. "When that old black Tom gobbles up an innocent mouse
for his supper, does she call him a murdering beast? Neither are we
thieves," went on Mother Graymouse hotly. "Even mice must live, and
unless we eat we will surely die. It is very ill-natured of the
Giants to begrudge us the few poor scraps that we are able to pick
up. But don't ever let me hear of your eating any cake again, Silver
Ears, even if it is stuffed with jam, without first showing it to
me," she finished in a severe tone.

"But, Mammy, I'm sure Ruth Giant would not give me cake that was not
fit to eat."

Then Mother Graymouse drew up the five little red-painted stools in a
row. She sat down before them in her rocking chair with little
squirming Squealer upon her knees. She gave him a stick of pink candy
to suck, so he would stop squealing while she talked.

"It is very painful," she began slowly, "but I see that I must teach
you some lessons this morning. Sit on your little stools and come to
order for school. Buster, you sit up straight and pay attention. Now
listen every one.

"E--n--e--m--y. Now spell it after me."

"E--n--e--m--y!" piped five shrill little voices.

"Who can tell me what an enemy is?"

Buster waved his paw wildly.

"Something good to eat, Mammy," he answered, smacking his fat little
chops.

"I fear, Buster, that I must make a dunce cap for you," said his
mother, trying hard not to smile.

"An enemy is a trap that pinches off toes," answered Limpy-toes.

"That cross old Norah is an enemy," decided Silver Ears. "But Ruth
Giant is not an enemy."

[Illustration: "That cross old Norah."]

"Maybe not; maybe not," returned Mother Graymouse. "But I mistrust
all the other Giants. So take care, my dears.

"An enemy is anything that will harm us. Traps are our enemies. Some
traps look like wire cages with a nice smelly bit of toasted cheese
inside. But the silly mouse who enters the cage will only be let out
when there is a cruel cat waiting outside to pounce upon him. There
are many kinds of traps, but they are all wicked enemies. So beware,
my dears.

"Cats are our enemies. You have all seen that cruel old Thomas Cat,
the black imp, with brass eyes that shine in the dark like automobile
lamps. His teeth are sharp and strong; his claws are like ugly
needles. Never take any chances when he is around, my dears.

"The Giants are our worst enemies. They set the traps to catch us;
they keep the cat to eat us. Often they try to poison us. That is the
reason, Silvy, why you must never eat Ruth Giant's cake until I have
seen it.

"Your poor Daddy ate a cracker one day, which was spread with salmon
and rat poison. It was the cause of his untimely death. 'Water,
water, water!' he moaned. Oh, I shall never forget how he suffered! I
helped him down to the pond and found a hole in the ice where he
could get water. But he grew worse as soon as he drank. Poor Daddy!
And so he died out there in the cold winter weather. Sniff! Sniff!
This has been a painful task, but you must remember every word I've
spoken this morning. Now for our review lesson."

"E--n--e--m--y, enemy," she spelled.

"E--n--e--m--y, enemy," chanted five obedient mice.

"T--r--a--p, trap," went on Mother Graymouse.

"T--r--a--p, trap," echoed her scholars.

"C--a--t, cat," she continued firmly.

"C--a--t, cat," shrilled all five.

"P--o--i--s--o--n, poison; that is the last word."

"P--o--i--s--o--n, poison," finished the tired little scholars with a
sigh.

"Very good," smiled Mother Graymouse. "Very good, indeed! School is
dismissed. You may run out and play."

Buster waved his paw high.

"Please, Mammy, I've made a new song. May I sing it now?"

"We shall all be delighted. Hush, hush, Squealer, while your clever
brother sings to us."

Buster folded his paws in his lap and sang very sweetly:

   "Traps are our enemies,
   Old Tom Cats, too;
   Watch out for Norah's broom,
   When she cries Shoo!

  "Although the cheese smells nice,
   Nibble it not;
   Wise little mice you see,
   Ne'er will be caught."

"Charming!" cried Mother Graymouse, and all the little Graymouse
children clapped their tiny paws.

"I think we will learn it for our bed-time song," decided Mother
Graymouse. "It will help you remember the lessons I have taught you
to-day."

[Illustration: _Buster folded his paws in his lap and sang very
sweetly_]


CHAPTER V

LIMPY-TOES IS LOST

"May Limpy-toes, Buster and I visit our cousins to-day, Mammy?" asked
Silver Ears one bright morning.

"If you will be careful and remember all I have told you. Be sure to
come home before dark." The three little mice trotted bravely away.
They went down their elevator, then crawled through a dark subway,
until they came to the warm cellar where Uncle Squeaky and his family
lived. Aunt and Uncle Squeaky had gone to the city, but all the
cousins--Dot, Scamper, Wink and Wiggle, were at home. They were very
glad to see them. "Mother left us a nice lunch and we will have a
picnic together," planned Dot. Dot and Silver Ears looked almost
exactly alike. A stranger could hardly have told them apart. Silver
Ears had brought some squares of patch-work to sew. She was making a
new quilt for Baby Squealer's cradle.

"Let's sew first," said Silver Ears, "and then we can have fun all
the rest of the day."

"All right," agreed Dot. "Pa Squeaky always says, 'Work before play,
my dears.' I will finish the silk ties I am hemming for Wink and
Wiggle." So the pretty cousins sat down cosily together at their
tasks.

Scamper invited Limpy-toes and Buster to the apple closet where they
often played. Wink and Wiggle went along also.

"How nice the apples smell," said Buster.

"They taste good, too," answered Scamper. Then the five little mice
each chose a red apple to nibble.

"Aren't we glad we came, Limpy-toes?" cried Buster.

"It is good fun," said Limpy-toes. "What is that big yellow thing,
Scamper?"

"That's our play-house," cried Wink and Wiggle.

[Illustration: "How nice the Apples smell," said Buster.]

"We made it out of a pumpkin," explained Scamper.

"Just see the windows and doors," said Wink.

"Come inside and see how nice it is," invited Wiggle.

They all took their apples and sat down inside the toy house.

"It is very cunning," said Limpy-toes.

"But it must have been hard work to chew it all out," added Buster.

"It did take a long time," admitted Scamper cheerily, "but it was
great sport. We like to make our own playthings."

Then Buster and Limpy-toes had to tell the cousins all about the
wonderful toys in the Giant's play-room. It was a long story. By the
time it was finished, Dot called them to a nice lunch.

In the afternoon, Uncle Squeaky and his wife returned from the city.

"Bless my stars!" cried Uncle Squeaky, "if here aren't three of the
Graymouse kiddies! Glad to see you, my dears."

Aunt Squeaky asked about Mother Graymouse's health and wanted to know
all about Baby Squealer and the twins. Then she hurried away to
change her best gown for a house dress and put away all the bundles.

Uncle Squeaky took down his fiddle and began to play a jig. "Now,
Buster Boy, sing us a song?" he coaxed.

Buster loved to sing; so he made no excuses. He folded his paws just
as Mammy had taught him and sang:

   "Cheese oh! Merry oh!"

while Uncle Squeaky played softly on the fiddle.

"Sing your newest song, Buster," reminded Silver Ears.

Uncle Squeaky was delighted with "Traps are our enemies."

He made them all stand up in a row and sing it over and over until
they knew it by heart.

"A very good lesson in rhyme," said Aunt Squeaky wagging her head
approvingly.

It seemed a very short time before it began to grow dark.

"We must start home now," said Silver Ears. "We promised Mammy."

"Good mice always keep their promises," said Uncle Squeaky as he
filled their pockets with dried pumpkin seeds and raisins.

When Mother Graymouse, with Squealer and the twins, returned from
making Granny Whiskers an afternoon call, she found Silver Ears and
Buster setting the tea-table.

"Where is Limpy-toes?" she asked.

"He was here only a few minutes ago," said Silver Ears.

Supper was ready and still Limpy-toes was missing. Mother Graymouse
grew uneasy.

"Are you sure he came all the way home from Uncle Squeaky's with you,
Silvy?"

"Quite sure, Mammy. He brought this bag of crullers which Aunt
Squeaky sent to you."

Mother Graymouse became very anxious when supper was over and still
Limpy-toes did not come. She stole into the play-room and looked in
every corner. Then bidding Silver Ears rock Squealer to sleep, she
hastened down to tell Grand-daddy Whiskers her trouble.

"I fear that some dreadful accident has befallen my poor, dear
Limpy-toes," she sobbed.

"Now, Daughter Betsey, don't you worry," was Grand-daddy's cheerful
reply. "Limpy-toes is a wise lad and knows well how to look out for
himself. I will light my lantern, however, and go out. Perhaps I may
meet him."

Mother Graymouse went home somewhat comforted and laden with a
pocketful of good things which Granny sent the children from the
pantry shelves.

Grand-daddy Whiskers and Uncle Squeaky searched all that evening,
flashing their lanterns into every dark corner, but at midnight they
had to tell Mother Graymouse that no trace of Limpy-toes was to be
found.

Poor Mammy cried and cried. All night long she wondered which enemy
had captured her oldest son. Could it be old Thomas Cat? Was he
caught in some dreadful trap, or had he eaten poison like poor Daddy?
At last she fell asleep.

[Ilustration: My poor, dear Limpy-toes, she sobbed.]

In the morning as she prepared the little bowls of oat-meal, she kept
wiping her eyes.

"How shall I ever tell the poor dears that their brother is dead?"
she sighed.

At last, Silver Ears, Buster, Tiny and Teenty were seated around the
breakfast-table sipping their hot porridge. Mother Graymouse was
dressing Baby Squealer who was howling, as usual.

"Where is Limpy-toes, Mammy?" asked Tiny. "Didn't he come home?"

"Sniff! sniff!" went Mother Graymouse. "My poor children, I fear you
will never see your dear brother again."

While she was speaking, there came the far-off patter, patter,
scratch, scratch, of somebody climbing up to the attic.

"Grand-daddy Whiskers," guessed Mother Graymouse, "or it may be Uncle
Squeaky bringing us bad news."

And then, up through the hole in the attic floor, who should appear
but Limpy-toes himself!

"Boo-hoo!" cried Baby Squealer as his mother dropped him in a
wriggling heap among the cradle pillows and ran to hug Limpy-toes.

"Tell us all about it?" they begged, as Limpy-toes drew up his little
stool and asked for his bowl of oat-meal porridge.

"I had quite an adventure," laughed Limpy-toes. "It wasn't so bad,
only I knew Mammy would worry. I slipped into the play-room while
Silvy got supper, hoping to find something good to eat. That Maid
Norah was there and she tried to hit me with an old shoe. I couldn't
get back through our holes, but had to run down-stairs. I dodged old
Thomas Cat and ran and ran. Ruth Giant opened the door and I whisked
out onto the piazza.

"At first I thought of going through the subway down to Uncle
Squeaky's. But I remembered that our meal-bag was empty. The barn was
near and I ran out to fill my pockets in the meal-chest."

[Illustration: Tell us all about it? they begged,]

"While I was working, Mr. Giant came into the barn and got a dishful
of meal for his chickens. It was quite dark and he did not see me.
But all at once, down slammed the lid, and there I was, a prisoner
for the night! Well, the meal made a soft bed and I slept nicely.
This morning, Norah opened the grain chest and I sprang out so
swiftly that she hardly saw me. I had a narrow escape from old Thomas
Cat, but here I am, safe and sound. Please, Mammy, may I have some
more porridge?"


CHAPTER VI

BUSTER AND THE CHOCOLATES

It was a hot summer day. Mother Graymouse had taken her children out
for a stroll in the fields. Only Buster remained at home. He had been
naughty and was punished by being left behind.

"I'd rather lie here and read my picture book than trot around in the
hot sunshine," he thought. "If only I had some candy, I would be
quite happy."

After he had looked at all the pictures and read one of the shortest
stories, he shut the book and began to sing softly to himself.

By-and-by he grew restless. "Oh, dear, I'm not one bit sleepy. I
can't take another nap. I wish I had some candy. I wonder--"

Then he pushed Baby Squealer's high-chair over to the cupboard and
climbed up until he could reach the shelf where Silver Ears had put
the Christmas candy. It was gone; every single piece.

[Illustration: It was a hot summer day.]

"Oh, I know!" remembered Buster. "Ruth Giant had a birthday party
last night. I think there may be some candy in the play-room. It will
do no harm to look."

He stole softly into the play-room on tiptoe, lest old Thomas Cat
might be prowling about and hear him. Ruth Giant was sitting among
the pillows upon the couch, reading a book. Beside her was a box of
splendid chocolates. Now and then she ate one.

Buster hid behind the doll's dresser and waited. At last he got
impatient.

"She will eat 'em all up and I know they are real good," he fussed.
"Mammy will come home and call me pretty soon. Oh, why doesn't
somebody call Ruth Giant down-stairs? I wonder if she would think I
was Silver Ears and toss me some candy? It can't be poison, for she
is eating it her own self."

At last, such a long at last, Buster thought, Ruth closed her book
and went away. How Buster did hurry to get his greedy little paws
into that box of chocolates!

He ran home with one, frisked back for another, and still another,
until the very last one of Ruth's fine chocolates was added to the
delicious heap on Buster's bed.

"My, but that was hard work!" panted the fat, lazy, little fellow. "I
wonder where I can hide 'em so I can have candy to nibble when I want
it?"

Down behind an old trunk was a pair of old boots that Mr. Giant had
brought to the attic. They were rather musty and dusty, but Buster
decided it would be quite safe to hide his candy in one of them. So
he trotted back and forth until half of the chocolates were stored
away in the toe of a boot.

"I guess I can eat the rest before Mammy comes, for I'm real hungry
for candy," thought Buster. He lay down on his little bed and
snuggled cosily among the pillows with his book and candy.

"Just like Ruth Giant," he thought proudly, as he nibbled a
chocolate. "It is almost as good as having a birthday party of my
own. And it is much nicer than tramping around out of doors, if Mammy
does call it a picnic."

When Mother Graymouse returned, the children were all eager to tell
Buster about their good time in the fields.

"We went down the lane," said Silver Ears, "and found lots of sweet
wild flowers."

"And we met Mr. Hop Toad and his wife out for a stroll," added
Limpy-toes. "Yes, and we saw Pete and Dickie Grasshopper, and Madame
Butterfly, also."

"We had our lunch in a lovely grove of ferns," piped Tiny's shrill
little voice.

"It was a lovely, cool grove," echoed Teenty, "and we had a nice
lunch."

Buster listened sleepily. Now and then he rubbed his stomach.

"Were you lonely, Buster?" asked his mother.

"No, ma'am."

"Did you have a good nap?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Are you sick, child?" she demanded, anxiously.

"Yes, Mammy," wailed Buster. "It seems as if my little jacket would
burst! Boo-hoo!"

Mother Graymouse hastened to get him a hot drink, but poor Buster
rolled and tossed upon his little bed.

Grand-daddy Whiskers came puffing up to the attic with a pan of warm
biscuits under his arm. Mother Graymouse looked relieved, for
Grand-daddy was quite a doctor.

"What shall I do for the poor child, Grand-daddy?" she asked.

"What has he been eating?" was Grand-daddy's first question as he
bent over Buster's bed.

"They weren't poison, Grand-daddy, 'cause Ruth Giant was eating 'em
her own self," moaned Buster.

"Eating what?" cried Mammy and Grand-daddy in the same breath.

"Chocolates," confessed Buster.

[Illustration: Grand-daddy Whiskers with a pan of warm biscuits under
his arm]

"How many?" demanded Grand-daddy sternly.

"Only ten," whimpered Buster.

"I will be right back," said Grand-daddy. "There is a bottle of
castor oil on the pantry shelf. That was what the doctor gave Robert
when he ate too much candy. You will get a good dose, young man, and
then you will feel better. Ten chocolates; the greedy little pig!" he
grumbled as he hurried away.

"I won't take castor oil, Mammy!" cried Buster. "It tastes horrid."

"You will take castor oil, Buster," replied Mother Graymouse, "if I
have to hold your nose."

Grand-daddy soon returned with the oil bottle and in spite of
Buster's kicks and squeals, he managed to pour a big dose down his
throat.

In a short time, Granny Whiskers came up to see her sick grandchild.

"I fear that oil will not cure him," she said. "You see, he has been
eating a good deal of sweet. What he needs is some sour medicine."

She disappeared down the hole and soon returned with a bottle of
vinegar tucked under her plaid shawl.

"Aren't you afraid that vinegar will strangle the poor dear?"
protested Mother Graymouse.

"Not a bit of it; not a bit of it! Give me a spoon," directed Granny.

Buster made a wry face as he swallowed the sour dose. Then he began
to cough and splutter and choke until Mammy grew frightened.

Uncle Squeaky appeared upon the scene just then.

"Stop that, you young rascal!" he laughed. "That is a very poor
imitation of a cough. What you need is neither oil nor vinegar, but a
good dose of salt. You are altogether too fresh for a youngster."

Buster stopped choking at once. Soon he began to feel better. Then he
called Silver Ears.

"There's ten more chocolates hidden in the toe of the Giant's boot,
Silvy," he whispered weakly. "Bring 'em out and eat 'em for supper.
I'm not hungry for candy any more."

He rolled over and tried to go to sleep. Silver Ears dived down into
the boot toe and pulled out the hidden candies. And so the Graymouse
family found two plump chocolates at each place when they sat down to
supper.

"It has been a lovely picnic day," lisped Tiny, nibbling her
chocolate.

"It has been a real lovely day," echoed Teenty sweetly.

Poor Buster, his face hidden in the pillows, remembered his picnic
day--chocolate, castor oil, vinegar, and pain,--and he just scowled
and scowled.


CHAPTER VII

SILVER EARS' ADVENTURE

It was a rainy day. Big drops splashed against the window-panes and
drummed upon the attic roof.

Silver Ears was restless. She had helped Mammy sweep the floor, had
wiped the dishes, and rocked Baby Squealer to sleep. She did not wish
to sew any more patchwork squares.

She could hear Ruth Giant laughing softly in the play-room.

"I'd like to be Ruth Giant's pet," she thought wistfully. "That
strawberry jam cake was lovely and so were the chocolates and
pop-corn. I mean to visit her again. I know Ruth Giant is not an
enemy. Mammy need not fear."

She tied her pink ribbon bow under her chin, and without a word to
anyone, slipped through a hole into the play-room.

But oh dear me! Ruth Giant had company. A little girl with brown
curls and great brown eyes was sitting in Ruth Giant's rocking-chair.
Silver Ears hid behind the doll's dresser which stood near the
biggest hole. Perhaps Ruth would not want her for a pet to-day. Maybe
the other girl would be afraid of a mouse. Some girls were silly just
like that. So Silver Ears waited and listened.

"Let's play dinner-party, Dorothy," Ruth was saying. "I like to play
dinner-party on rainy days. It is ever so cosy. We must dress the
dolls in their prettiest gowns."

The two girls worked busily away putting dainty white dresses upon
their flaxen-haired dolls. Silver Ears listened with great interest.
She learned that the dark-eyed doll with the red sash was Pansy;
Daisy wore a blue ribbon to match her eyes; while the one who was
dressed in yellow silk was named Rose.

They were very stylish dolls and wore lace collars, pretty hair
ribbons and strings of beads. It took quite a while to get them ready
for the party.

"Now if you will spread this napkin on the table, Dorothy, I will go
down and coax Norah for some nice things to eat," planned Ruth.

Dorothy set the tiny table with a cunning tea-set of white and gold.
Then she placed Daisy, Pansy and Rose around the table.

"Oh, isn't it lovely!" cried Ruth. "Just see all the nice things that
dear old Norah fixed for us."

She put a plate of cold chicken, some bread and butter sandwiches, a
glass of raspberry jam and four frosted cup cakes upon the table.

"How nice!" exclaimed Dorothy. "Oh, I just love dinner parties!"

"So do I," thought Silver Ears. "I wish they would invite me to
dinner."

"Dinner is served," announced Ruth, sweetly. "Oh, my! I never thought
about something to drink until I saw the empty cups. I must ask Norah
to make us some cocoa."

"I'll go down with you," said Dorothy.

"Oh, joy!" Silver Ears almost clapped her excited little paws.
Chicken, jam, frosted cake! The minute the play-room door was closed,
she invited herself to dinner. Daisy, Pansy and Rose looked smilingly
on and said never a word while she nibbled some cake and dipped her
paw daintily into the jam. Then she tried the chicken. It was the
most delicious chicken she had ever tasted.

"I hope it will take that Norah Maid a long time to make the cocoa,"
she thought, and her sharp teeth nibbled the chicken as fast as ever
they could.

By-and-by, Silver Ears heard footsteps. Seizing a slice of chicken,
she whisked softly into the doll's bed and, safely hidden under the
blankets, kept on with her feast.

"Now we are all ready at last," laughed Ruth. "I think I must make
Tommy sit beside me. He does not behave real good at dinner-parties.
I cannot teach him not to put his paws on the table."

Silver Ears began to tremble. So that cross old Tom Cat was a guest
at the dinner-party! That cruel, black Tom with the brass eyes and
sharp claws. Suppose--just suppose!

"Why, Ruth!" exclaimed Dorothy, "one of the dolls has been eating
cake."

"And where in the world is all that chicken?" wondered Ruth. "It is
over half gone. Tommy wasn't here or I'd think he was the thief. Who
do you suppose could have---"

Ruth paused suddenly to watch Tommy. He was acting strangely. He
sniffed at the table, hopped down and ran straight to the doll's bed,
like the keen-nosed detective that he was.

Out popped Silver Ears. She darted across the room and squeezed
through the tiniest hole just as Tom's sharp claws reached out to
grab her. She slipped safely through to the other side and Tom went
angrily back to the empty bed, switching his long tail. He had to be
content with a piece of cold chicken for his dinner that day.

Silver Ears ran sobbing to Mammy.

"My dear child," said Mother Graymouse, "you are all of a quiver. And
your poor little back is bleeding!"

She hurried to find some lint and cobwebs in the dark, unswept
corners of the attic.

"Do not be frightened, Silvy. Mammy will fix you up as good as new.
Run down to Grand-daddy, Limpy-toes, and fetch a pinch of cure-all
salve. By to-morrow, your scratch will be all well, Silvy dear."

"Oh, such a fright!" gasped Silver Ears. "I don't wish to be Ruth
Giant's pet any more. She can have her dear Tommy if she wants him."

"Did you get anything good to eat?" asked Buster.

"Oh, yes. Come over here, twinnies, and I will tell you all about it.
I wish I'd had time to stuff some of that chicken and frosted cake
into my pocket for you all. It was a splendid dinner party, if that
old Tom hadn't been invited."

"Chicken, raspberry jam and frosted cake," repeated Buster in his
slow, drawling voice. "Say, Silvy, don't you mind that scratch. I'd
risk it for such a good feast. Do you suppose there's any left?"

"I forbid you all to enter that play-room again without asking my
permission," commanded Mother Graymouse.

"Don't risk it, Buster," laughed Silver Ears. "Why, you never would
have reached that hole. You are too fat to run fast. I nearly missed
it. And anyway, you would have stuck in the middle of that teentiest
hole and old Tom would have chewed your tail right off."

"True, quite true," echoed Mother Graymouse, wagging her head
solemnly.


CHAPTER VIII

VISITING MRS. FIELD-MOUSE

One fine morning in midsummer, Mother Graymouse and her family
started upon their annual outing.

Mrs. Field-Mouse, who was a distant cousin of Daddy Graymouse, lived
near Pond Lily Lake. Mother Graymouse usually visited her each year
in August.

The children had been looking forward to this trip for many days. The
bag which had once held the Christmas candy, was packed with dainties
for the little Field-Mouse Cousins. Limpy-toes and Buster were to
take turns carrying it, while Silver Ears helped her mother with
Squealer.

They started quite early in the morning, while the grass was wet with
dew, for it was a long walk and by noon the sun would be very hot.

Tiny and Teenty raced merrily on ahead, picking bouquets of wild
blossoms and calling gaily to the butterflies and honey bees who were
flitting among the flowers.

By-and-by, the tired little party stopped to rest under a clump of
red clover. Granny Whiskers had slipped a ginger cookie into each
tiny pocket when they called at her door to say good-by. These
cookies made a nice luncheon for them.

"How much farther is it, Mammy?" asked Tiny.

"We must follow this crooked path that leads through the sweet
clover, then go to the south of a big corn field. Do you see the top
of that wild cherry tree over yonder? Well, Cousin Field-Mouse lives
near that tree."

They were soon rested and eager to go on. It was sweet among the
nodding pink and white clover blossoms. The tall corn stalks, with
their silky tassels, seemed like a forest to the timid children, but
Mother Graymouse trotted bravely on. Under the shade of the wild
cherry tree, however, she paused in confusion.

"Why, Mr. Giant has plowed this land all up for his garden!" she
cried. "Poor Cousin Field-Mouse! Her comfortable home has been
destroyed."

"Must we go home?" sighed Silver Ears.

"I'm tired," mourned Buster.

"Wait. I see Dickie Grasshopper over by the pond," said Limpy-toes.
"Perhaps he can tell us where Cousin Field-Mouse lives now."

Dickie Grasshopper agreed at once to show them the way to Mrs.
Field-Mouse's new home. He went on ahead with a hop, skip and jump,
so that they had to hurry to keep him in sight. He soon brought them,
warm and breathless, to a pile of rails near the corn field.

"I thank you very kindly, Dickie," said Mother Graymouse. Then she
knocked upon the door of the humble cottage.

"Why, my dear Betsey!" cried Mrs. Field-Mouse. "I am glad to see you!
And all of the children. Dearie sakes, how they do grow! This is a
pleasure, a real surprise party. Do come in and take off your
bonnet."

"We did not know that you had moved, Debbie," said Mother Graymouse
as she untied Squealer's bonnet strings. "How did it happen?"

Tears came into Mrs. Field-Mouse's eyes.

"Oh, it was dreadful, Betsey, just dreadful! One bright, sunshiny
morning in the spring, there came a terrible earthquake. All in a
minute, our home was a mass of ruins. Pa Field-Mouse was away from
home. I snatched Baby Wee and saved him. But oh, my dear Betsey, of
all my ten children, Wee and Nimble-toes were the only ones to
escape. Sniff! sniff! sniff!"

"Sniff! sniff!" cried Mother Graymouse.

"Well, we mice must make the best of things," added Mrs. Field-Mouse
more cheerfully. "Our new home is snug and sheltered and not nearly
as damp as the old one. There is an abundance of sweet corn and other
juicy vegetables in the Giant's garden, and a big oak tree near by to
supply us with all the acorns we shall need for next winter.

"The pond is near, also. Pa Field-Mouse has built us a small raft of
dried mushrooms and sometimes we go sailing across the water. Pa and
Nimble-toes are down by the pond, gathering seeds. When they come
home, Nimble-toes shall show the dear children the sights."

When Pa Field-Mouse and Nimble-toes returned, Mrs. Field-Mouse had
dinner ready, out under the oak tree in real picnic fashion.
Nimble-toes danced with delight when he saw the bag of rare goodies.
Buster, however, thought that the minced turnip and seed salad was a
great treat.

Baby Squealer never cried "Boo-hoo!" once all that long summer day.
He played with Baby Wee as smiling and happy as could be.

"The darling is always as good as gold when he is out doors," said
Mother Graymouse.

"I always said it was fresh air and sunshine that made Wee so
healthy," agreed Ma Field-Mouse.

After dinner, Nimble-toes invited Limpy-toes, Silver Ears, Buster and
the twins to go out and play with him. They went down to the pond,
which was dotted with sweet, white lilies, and watched the fish
splash in the water.

Grandpa Bull Frog hopped over to chat with them. He invited them to a
frog concert which was to be held that evening.

"We would love to stay," smiled Silver Ears, "but I fear Mammy will
go home early."

"Grandpa Bull Frog plays a bass-viol," explained Nimble-toes. "He
plays very nicely."

"So does my Uncle Squeaky," bragged Buster, "only he plays a fiddle."

A big black snake crawled along just then and frightened the twins so
badly that they all had to run away from the pond.

In the garden, Nimble-toes showed them how to climb a corn-stalk,
peel off the husks and nibble the sweet, white kernels.

"Oh, isn't it sweet and juicy!" cried Buster. "Say, Nimble-toes, I'd
like to stay here a whole month."

"You would grow fatter than ever," laughed Limpy-toes. "But it is
delicious."

They found some little red berries growing under the oak tree, that
tasted very much like Uncle Squeaky's checkermints. Nimble-toes said
that they were checkerberries.

All too soon, the sun sank in the west, it began to grow dark and
Mammy called that it was time to start for home.

It was a fine moonlight evening and the walk home seemed short.
Crickets were singing their even-songs all along the road.
Whippoor-wills and tree toads shrilled their calls, also. From Pond
Lily Lake, they heard faint, sweet sounds in the distance as the frog
concert began.

"It has been a lovely day, Mammy," said Silver Ears. "I would like to
live away out in the country."

"Where there are sweet, juicy ears of corn," added Buster.

"Nimble-toes promised to take me for a sail some day," said
Limpy-toes.

"Oh, let's go again, Mammy," lisped Tiny.

"Let's go," echoed Teenty.

Baby Squealer was sound asleep in the candy bag which hung over
Mother Graymouse's shoulder, so he did not even say "Boo-hoo!"

"Well, well, dearies, we did have a delightful visit," replied Mother
Graymouse. "Perhaps some day we will go again."


CHAPTER IX

MOVING DAYS

One day, Mother Graymouse put on her gray bonnet with the blue
ribbons on it, and hunted around for the candy bag. She was going
shopping. When at last she found the bag, there was a hole in one
corner.

"I have not used it since the day we visited Cousin Debbie
Field-Mouse," she remembered. "That naughty Baby Squealer must have
chewed a hole in it on the way home. Please bring a needle and thread
and mend it for me, Silvy."

"There is no thread, Mammy. I used the last needleful yesterday
sewing patchwork."

"Dear me, I shall have to get some," sighed Mother Graymouse. "I have
a whole paper of needles, but they are useless without thread."

"I saw Ruth Giant making a doll's dress in the play-room," lisped
Tiny, "and she had a nice, new spool of white cotton. I didn't go in,
Mammy, truly I didn't. Teenty and I were peeping through the littlest
hole."

When Mother Graymouse had gone, Silver Ears was eager for another
adventure.

"We need that nice new spool of thread," she argued, "and I mean to
get it. No, Buster, you are too fat to run fast, and Limpy-toes is
lame. I shall not let the twins venture, for old Tom is often in the
play-room. So I must go myself."

Away she skipped, before cautious Limpy-toes could say no. Pretty
soon she slipped through the tiniest hole, laughing gleefully. She
held a long white thread in her mouth.

"Hurry and bring the empty spool," she cried. "I fooled old Tom that
time. He was asleep on the couch and never heard me. I couldn't pull
the spool through the hole, so I've brought one end of the thread.
We'll take turns winding it on to our spool."

They wound, and wound, and wound.

"Seem's if there is no end," complained Buster.

Limpy-toes went on with the work. Suddenly, the thread tightened and
the spool in the playroom stopped bobbing.

The twins crept slyly to the hole to see what had happened. They came
back giggling softly.

"Old Tom thinks someone is bobbing it for him to play with," lisped
Tiny.

"Stop winding," directed Silver Ears, "and old Tom will soon take
another nap."

When Mother Graymouse returned, Silver Ears had the shopping bag
neatly mended and there was plenty of thread upon their spool.

"I meant to have gone for it myself. And I had told you, Silvy, never
to go to the play-room without asking," she scolded.

"I'm sorry I disobeyed, Mammy," said Silver Ears. "You see, we needed
the thread so badly and it was such fun to fool old Tom, that I
forgot what you said. Please forgive me, Mammy?"

"Yes, dear, I will forgive you this time. But oh, such a risk!" she
sighed.

Next day, Silver Ears discovered that all three of the holes into the
play-room had been stuffed with yellow soap.

"The nasty tasting stuff!" she scolded. "How can we ever get it out?
If we chew new holes, I suppose they will be stuffed, too."

When Mother Graymouse called upon Granny Whiskers, she found her in
great trouble.

"The cookies are shut tight in pails. The cheese and meat are
covered. The only food in sight is set around on the pantry shelves
in traps. The Giants mean to starve us out. Such terrible times as
have befallen us!" she moaned.

Uncle Squeaky was of the same opinion. Mr. Giant had been very angry
when he found the pumpkin play-house that Wink and Wiggle had made.
He found fault because his choice red apples were nibbled.

"And now," continued Uncle Squeaky in a disgusted tone, "the whole
cellar is full of traps."

They held a serious counsel,--Grand-daddy and Granny Whiskers, Uncle
and Aunt Squeaky, and Mother Graymouse. They talked until midnight.
When the clock struck twelve, Grand-daddy summed it all up.

[Illustration: The only food in sight is set around on the pantry
shelves in traps.]

"This has been going on for some time. War is now declared. Our
enemies are stronger, wiser and richer than ourselves. Daddy
Graymouse has lost his life, Limpy-toes had lost some toes, and I
have lost a generous piece out of one ear. We must consider the
safety of our children. It is wise, therefore, to retreat before it
is too late," he finished, looking very solemn. The other four wagged
their heads in approval.

Next morning when all the little Graymouses were eating their
breakfast food, Mother Graymouse announced soberly, "My dears, we are
going to move."

"Out into the country?" cried Silver Ears and Buster at once.

"Out into the barn."

"Oh, dear!" wailed five little mice.

"Boo-hoo!" cried Baby Squealer.

"Listen, dearies," argued Mammy patiently. "Our lives are no longer
safe in this attic. Our enemies are cruel. We must go. But
Grand-daddy and Uncle Squeaky will go with us. You will have Dot,
Scamper, Wink and Wiggle for playmates. Just think what fun you ten
children will have together. Uncle Squeaky knows a snug place in the
hay loft where we can live in safety. There's plenty of grain in the
barrels and the store is still across the street. We older folk may
even venture into the Giant's pantry now and then. But we think it
best to take you children out of danger."

"It might be worse," remarked Limpy-toes.

"I shall love to have Cousin Dot with us," smiled Silver Ears.

"And Wink and Wiggle," added the twins.

"Prob'ly Granny will make us some ginger cookies," drawled Buster.
"But oh, Mammy, what hard work it will be to move!"

"It will, indeed," agreed Mother Graymouse, "so I think, Buster, that
you may as well start right now to help me pack. There's my rocking
chair, Squealer's cradle and high-chair, all your little beds and
stools, besides my dishes,--it makes me weary just to think of it."

"We must not forget our needles and thread," said Silver Ears. "I
mean to rummage in these trunks and get a whole lot of stuff for
dresses and bonnets and patchwork. And our shopping bag--we must not
forget that."

Each night as it grew dusky, a busy little procession marched to the
barn, laden with their household goods. It took a long time, for they
meant to stock up as heavily as possible for the coming winter.

But at last, Granny wrapped herself in her plaid shawl, slipped a
bottle of castor oil and another of vinegar into her skirt pocket,
and said good-by to her pantry home. Uncle Squeaky, with his precious
fiddle tucked under his arm, joined her and Grand-daddy. Then
followed Mother Graymouse and her little brood, with Aunt Squeaky and
the cousins.

But the next week was Thanksgiving. Granny, Mammy and Aunt Squeaky
were good cooks and they forgot their sadness in their preparations
to celebrate the holiday. And so it was a jolly, thankful party which
sat down to the feast at Grand-daddy Whisker's long table which was
laden with good things for their Thanksgiving dinner.

[Illustration: A busy little procession marched to the barn.]


CHAPTER X

THE CHRISTMAS TREE

It was twilight time. Silver Ears, Dot and Buster were sitting in the
fragrant hay. Over in another corner of the loft, Wink and Wiggle
were playing a game of tag with the Graymouse twins.

"Let's have a Christmas tree next week, like the young Giants did
last year," proposed Silver Ears.

"All trimmed with pop-corn and candy!" exclaimed Buster. "Oh, Silvy,
that would be grand!"

"Let's go right now and find Scamper and Limpy-toes," said Dot. "We
will ask them to help us choose a tree and bring it home. There is
lovely moon-light, out of doors."

Mother Graymouse and Aunt Squeaky said they might go to the woods if
they would be very careful. So they dressed warmly and started out.

They met Limpy-toes and Scamper dragging home the shopping bag filled
with delicious cream cheese from the store.

They readily agreed to help find a tree. Limpy-toes led the way. He
remembered seeing a pretty little cedar tree down by the pond when
they had visited Cousin Field-Mouse.

It was a long walk, but at last they found it, all powdered with snow
which sparkled in the moonlight.

Such a frolic! They took turns hacking away at it with their tiny
hatchet, giving merry squeals when the cedar twigs pricked their
paws. Then they dragged it home, making a funny path in the snow.

"To-morrow we will come again," planned Scamper, "and we will bring
Wink and Wiggle, Teenty and Tiny. We must all gather princess pine,
evergreen and holly to trim the barn so it will look real
Christmasy."

All that week, the children had a jolly time. They made holly wreaths
dotted with red berries, and yards of evergreen trimming. Grand-daddy
set the cedar tree in one corner where it looked very grand.

Uncle Squeaky slipped into the Giant's pantry one evening, when his
keen nose smelled pop-corn, and came back with a load of the fluffy
white stuff.

"Get your needles, children," called Mother Graymouse, "and we will
string some pop-corn for the tree."

They sat in a circle upon the barn floor around the heap of corn and
sewed it into strings which Granny Whiskers tossed upon the branches
of their tree. Granny was as interested as the youngsters in the
Christmas doings.

Another evening, Uncle Squeaky brought home some peppermints and
checkermints.

"Here, kiddies, sew some thread through these candies and hang 'em on
your tree," he grinned.

"Oh, how pretty!" cried Dot, when the pink and white candies were
swinging among the green branches.

At last came Christmas Eve.

"We have a Christmas tree and it is all trimmed lovely," lisped Tiny,
"but do you s'pose there'll be any presents like Ruth and Robert
Giant had on their tree?"

"They say that Santa comes down from the North Pole on his sled drawn
by swift reindeer and brings a great pack filled with presents for
good little mice," said Grand-daddy.

"But you must all go to bed early, for he would not want you peeping
while he trimmed your tree," added Granny.

It was not easy to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. But at last, Baby
Squealer stopped squealing; the twins giggled themselves to the Land
of Nod; Wink and Wiggle could not keep their heavy eyes open any
longer; and the four oldest children went sound asleep, for they had
worked hard that day cracking nuts for Mammy's cake and seeding
raisins for Aunt Squeaky's Christmas pudding.

When the clock struck eleven, strange to say, it was Buster's eyes
which were still wide open. He was usually very sleepy, but to-night
he was very curious. He wanted to see Santa trim that tree. So he
winked and he blinked under his blankets, keeping real still and
pretending to be asleep.

And what do you think? Grand-daddy began to hang pieces of cheese on
the tree! Aunt Squeaky tiptoed in with a pile of cute little
hemstitched handkerchiefs; Mammy had a handful of gay ribbon bows and
neckties; and Granny was hanging up ten pair of scarlet mittens.
Uncle Squeaky brought in a red double-runner sled and pushed it under
the tree!

"I guess Santa is a joke," chuckled Buster sleepily. "Won't we have
fun sliding on that double-runner Uncle has made!"

Quite happy, he closed his eyes and went sound asleep.

He awoke suddenly when the clock struck one. There was a jingle of
sleigh bells; the reindeer were racing across the frozen snow; and
there, in the bright moonlight, was old Santa trimming their tree!

Buster gazed in wonder while the fat old fellow tied on
handkerchiefs, red mittens, cream cheese, ribbon bows and candies.
Why, he was even pushing a sled under the tree!

"That is queer," thought Buster drowsily.

Bright and early next morning, ten little mice were dancing about
their tree. Sure enough, Buster found it loaded with the very
presents he expected.

"Grand-daddy, did you trim our tree, or did Santa?" he demanded.

"Why do you ask such funny questions, Buster Boy?" laughed
Grand-daddy. Then Buster told all he had seen in the night.

"You must have eaten too much cheese for supper," chuckled Uncle
Squeaky. "Cheese always makes me dream."

"But did I dream about Santa, or about you and Grand-daddy and
Mammy?" insisted Buster.

"Well, that's the question," grinned Uncle Squeaky as he walked off,
leaving Buster very much puzzled.

They left the presents on their tree all Christmas day. In the
evening, they held a concert.

Uncle Squeaky played upon his fiddle and Buster sang his newest song:

   "We are merry as can be,
   Happy little mice,
   Gathered round our Christmas tree
   Hung with gifts so nice.
   Jolly little mice are we,
   Happy all day long;
   So we shout and sing with glee
   Our glad Christmas song."

Then Grand-daddy played Santa and distributed the gifts.

"Oh, I think the hay loft is nicer than our attic home, after all,"
laughed Silver Ears.

"So it is," agreed Limpy-toes.

"Because we are all living together," said Dot.

"I think we have nicer things to eat," drawled Buster.

"And we love to play with Wink and Wiggle," lisped Tiny.

[Illustration:  "Jolly little mice are we,
   Happy all day long;
   So we shout and sing with glee
   Our glad Christmas song"]

"Yes, my children, it is indeed a Merry Christmas this year," said
Grand-daddy. "We are safe and snug in a comfortable home with plenty
to eat. I just heard that our old enemy, Thomas Cat, has been run
over by Mr. Giant's automobile. He will worry us no more. Your uncle
and I are making a profound study of traps. We no longer fear them,
because we understand them.

"Come, Uncle Squeaky, tune up and we will all dance around the
Christmas tree and sing Buster's new song with right good will."

The jolly old moon, peering through the one dusty window-pane, saw a
frolicsome circle of mice join hands and dance around a little cedar
tree. They were singing merrily:

  "Jolly little mice are we,
  Happy all day long;
  So we shout and sing with glee
  Our glad Christmas song."

And so ended a merry Christmas day in the Giant's barn loft.





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