Charlotte Mary Yonge.

A storehouse of stories : storehouse the first online

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that I doubt I shall never live to tell you; but for pity's sake
have compassion on me, either put me out of my present
misery by instantly killing me, or else give me something to
eat ; for, if you knew my sufferings, I am sure it would grieve
your heart.' ' Kill you! ' returned I, ' no, that I will not: on
the contrary, I will try by every method to restore you to
health and all the happiness a mouse is capable of feeling.'
I then instantly sent for some bread, and had the satisfaction
of seeing him eat very heartily of it, after which he seemed
much refreshed, and began to move about a little more suit-
able to his name ; for, in truth, when I first found him, no
li\'ing creature in the world could appear less deserving of
the appellation of Nimble. I then fetched him a little milk,
and gave him a lump of sugar to nibble; after eating of which



LIFE OF A MOUSE.



he begged to retire into some safe little hole to take a nap,
from whence he promised to return as soon as he should
Avake; and accordingly, in about an hour, he again appeared
on my table, and began as follows.



I WAS frightened away from you just as I was going to
implore your compassion for any unfortunate mouse that
might happen to fall within your power, lest you should de-
stroy my dear and only surviving brother, Longtail; but
somebody entering the room, prevented me, and after I had
regained my hiding-place, I resolved to quit the house, and
once more set out in search of my beloved brother. Accord-
ingly, with great difficulty I made my way out of the house;
but my distress was much increased ui)on finding the snow
so deep upon the ground, that it was impossible for me to
attempt to stir, as upon stepping one foot out to try, I found
it far. too deep for me to fathom the bottom. This greatly
distressed me. 'Alas !' said I to myself, ' what shall I do now ?
To proceed is impossible; and to return is very melancholy,
without any tidings of my dear, dear Longtail !' But I was
interrupted in the midst of these reflections by the appear-
ance of two cats, who came running with such violence as to
pass by without observing me : however, it put me in such
consternation that, regardless where I went, I sprung forward,
and sunk so deep in the snow that I must inevitably soon
have perished, had not a boy come to the very place where
I was, to gather snow for making snowballs to throw at his
companions. Happily for me, he took me up in his hand,
in the midst of the snow^, which not less alarmed me, when
I considered the sufferings I had before endured, and the
cruel death of my brother Brighteyes from the hands of boys.
Oh ! thought I to myself, what new tortures shall I now ex-
perience ! Better had I perished in the cold snow, than be
spared only to be tormented by the cruel hands of unthink-
ing children.

Scarcely had 1 made this rellection, when the boy called
out, upon seeing mc move, ' Lud ! what have I got here V at
the same instant tossing the handful of snow from him in



304 STOREHOUSE OE STORIES.

a violent harry, without attempting to press it into a ball.
Over I turned head antl heels, wondering what further would
be my fate, when I fell unhurt upon some hay which was laid
in the yard to fodder the cows and horses. Here I lay some
time, so frightened by my adventure as to be unable to move,
and my little heart beat as if it would have burst its way
through my breast ; nor were my ajjprehensions at all dimi-
nished by the approach of a man, who gathered the hay up in
his arms, and carried it (with me in the midst of it) into the
stable, where, after littering down the horses, he left me once
more to my own reflections.

After he had been gone some time, and all things were
quiet, I began to look about me, and soon found my way
into a corn-bin, where I made a most delicious supper, and
slept free from any disturbance till the morning, when, fear-
ing I might be discovered, in case he should want any of the
oats for his horses, I returned by the same place I had en-
tered, and hid myself in one corner of the ha3'loft, where I
passed the whole of the day more free from alarm than often
falls to the lot of any of my species, and in the evening again
returned to regale myself with corn, as I had done the night
before. The great abundance with which I was surrounded
strongly tempted me to continue where I Avas ; but then the
thoughts of my absent brother embittered all my peace, and
the advice of my mother came so much across my mind, that
I determined before the next morning I would again venture
forth and seek my fortune and my brother Accordingly,
after having eaten a very hearty meal, I left the bin, and
was attempting to get out of the stable, when one of the
horses being taken -suddenly ill, made so much noise with
his kicking and strugghng as to alarm the family; and the
coachman entering with a lantern in his hand, put me into
such consternation that I ran for shelter into the pocket of
a great coat which hung up upon a peg next the harness of
the horses. Here I lay snug for some hours, not daring to
stir, as I smelt the footsteps of a cat frequently pass by, and
heard the coachman extol her good qualities to a man who
accompanied him to the stable, saying she was the best
mouser in the kingdom. ' I do not believe,' added he, ' I



LIFE OF A MOUSE.



have a mouse in the stable or loft, she keeps so good a look-
out. For the last two days I lent her to the cook to put into
her pantry, but I have got her back again, and I would not
part with her for a crown ; no, not for the best silver crown
that ever was coined in the Tower/ Then, through a little
mothhole in the lining of the coat, I saw him lift her up,
stroke her, and put her upon the back of one of the horses,
where she stretched herself out and went to sleep.

In this situation I did not dare to stir. I had too often
seen how eager cats are to watch mice, to venture out of the
pocket whilst she was so near me, especially as I did not at
all know the holes or cracks round the stable, and should.
therefore, had she jumped down, have been at a loss where
to run. So I determined to continue where I was till either
hunger forced me, or the absence of the cat gave a better
opportunity of escaping. But scarce had I taken up this
resolution, when the coachman again entered, and, suddenly
taking the coat from the peg, put it on, and marched out
with me in his pocket.

It is utterly impossible to describe my fear and consterna-
tion at this event : to jump out whilst in the stable exposed
me to the jaws of the cat, and to attempt it when out of
doors was but again subjecting myself to be frozen to death,
for the snow continued still on the ground; yet, to stay in his
pocket was running the chance of suffering a still more dread-
ful death by the barbarous hands of man ; and nothing did
I expect, in case he should find me, but either to be tortured
like Softdown, or given to be the sport of his favourite cat — •
a fate almost as much dreaded as the other. However, it
was soon put out of my power to determine ; for whilst I was
debating in my own mind what course I had better take,
he mounted the coachbox and drove away with me in his
pocket, till he came to a large house about a mile distant
from tills place; there he put down the company he had in
the coach, and then drove into the yard. But he had not
been there many moments before the coachman of the family
he was come to invited him into the kitchen to warm himself,
drink a mug of ale, and eat a mouthful of cold meat. As
soon as he entered, and had paid the proper compliments to
* X



3o6 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.



the Mrs. Betties and Mollies at the place, he pulled off his
great coat and hung it across the back of his chair. I in-
stantly seized the first oi)portunity, and whilst they were all
busy assembling round the luncheon table, made my escape,
and ran under a cupboard door close to the chimney, where
I had an opportunity of seeing and hearing all that passed,
part of which conversation I will relate to you.

' Well, Mr. John,' said a footman, addressing himself to
the man whose pocket I had just left, ' how fare you % Are
you pretty hearty % You look well, I am sure.' ' Aye, and
so I am,' replied he, ' I never was better in all my life ; I
live comfortably, have a good master and mistress, eat and
drink bravely, and what can a man wish for more ? For my
part, I am quite contented, and if I do but continue to enjoy
my health, I am sure I shall be very ungrateful not to be
so.' ' That's true,' said the other ; ' but the misfortune of it
is, people never know when they are well oft', but are apt to
fret and wish, and wish and fret for something or other all
their lives, and so never have any enjoyment. Now, for my
own part, I must needs confess that I cannot help wishing I
was a gentleman, and think I should be a deal happier if I
was.' 'Pshaw!' replied John, 'I don't like now to hear a
man say so; it looks as if you were discontented with the
state in which you are placed, and depend upon it, you are
in the one that is fittest for you, or you would not have been
put into it. And as for being happier if you were a gentle-
man, I don't know what to say to it. To be sure, to have a
little more money in one's pocket, nobody can deny that it
would be very agreeable ; and to be at liberty to come in
and go out when one pleased, to be sure, would be very com-
fortable. But still. Bob, still you may assure yourself that
no state in this world is free from care, and if we were turned
into lords, we should find many causes for uneasiness. So
here's your good health,' said he, lifting the mug to his
mouth, ' wishing, my lad, you may be contented, cheerful,
and good-humoured; for without these three requisites, con-
tent, cheerfulness, and good-humour, no one person upon
earth, rich or poor, old or young, can ever feel comfortable
or happy; and so here's to you, I say.' ' And here's the



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 307

same good wishes to you,' said a clean, decent-looking woman
servant, who took up the mug upon John's putting it down.
' Content, cheerfulness, and good-humour, I think, was the
toast.' Then, wiping her mouth as she began her speech,
she added, ' and an excellent one it is : I wish all folks would
mind it, and endeavour to acquire three sucli good qualifica-
tions.' ' I am sure,' rejoined another female servant, whose
name I heard was Sally, ' I wish so too : at least I wish Miss
Mary would try to gain a little more of the good-humour;
for I never come near such a cross crab in my life as it is.
I declare I hate the sight of the girl; she is such a proud
little minx she would not vouchsafe to speak to a poor ser-
vant for the world ; as if she thought, because we are poorer,
we were therefore not of the same nature : her sisters, 1 think,
are worth ten of her, they always reply so civilly if a body
speaks to them, and say, "Yes, if you please, Mrs. Sally," or
" No, thank you, Mr. Bob ;" or " I should be obliged to you
if you would do so and so, Mrs. Nelly," and not plain yes or
no, as she does ; and well too if you can get even that from
her; for sometimes I declare she will not deign to give one
any answer at all.' 'Aye, that is a sure thing she Avont,' re-
plied the maidservant who first drank, ' it is a sad thing she
should behave so; I can't think, for my part, where she
learns it; I am sure neither her papa nor mamma set her the
example of it, for they always speak as pretty and as kind as
it is possible to do ; and I have heard with my own ears my
mistress tell her of it twenty and twenty times, but she will
do so. I am sure it is a sad thing that she should, for she
will always make people dislike her. I am sure if young
gentlemen and ladies did but know how it makes people
love them to speak civilly antl kind, they would take great
care not to behave like Miss Mary. Do you know, the
other day, when Mrs. Lime's maid brought little Miss Peggy
to see my mistress, when she went away she matle a cour-
tesy to Miss Mary, and said, "Good morning to you. Miss."
And, would you think it, the child stood like a stake, and
never returned it so much as by a nod of the head, nor did
she open her lips. I saw by her looks the maid took notice
of it, and I am sure I have such a regard for tJie family that



3o8 STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

I felt quite ashamed of her behaviour.' 'Oh ! she served
me worse than that,' resumed Sally, ' for, would you believe
it, the other day I begged her to be so kind as to let her
mamma know that I wanted to speak with her ; and I did
not choose to go into the room myself, because I was dirty,
and there was company there ; but for all I desired her over
and over only just to step in (and she was at play close to
the door), yet, could you suppose it possible, she was ill-
natured enough to refuse me, and would not do it at last.'
' Well, if ever I heard the like of that ! ' exclaimed John,
whose pocket I had been in, ' I think that was being cross
indeed, and if a child of mine was to behave in that surly
manner, I would whip it to death almost. I abominate
such unkind doings ; let every one, I say, do as they like to
be done by, and that is the only way to be happy, and the
only way to deserve to be so ; for if folks will not trj- to be
kind, and oblige others, why should anybody try to please
them % And if Miss Mary was my girl, and chose to behave
rude and cross to the servants, if I was her papa, I would
order them to refuse doing anything for her. I would soon
humble her pride, I warrant you, for nobody should make
her puddings, or cut her bread, or do anything for her till
she learned to be kind, and civil, and thankful too, for all
that was done for her. I have no notion, for my part, for a
child to give herself such airs for nothing ; and because her
parents happen to have a little more money in their pockets,
for that reason to think she may be rude to poor folks ; but
though servants are poor, still surely they are richer than she
is: I should like to ask her how much she has got? and
which way she came by it % A child, I am sure, is no richer
than a beggar, for they have not a farthing that is not given
them through mere bounty ; whereas a servant who works
for his living has a light and just claim to his wages, and
may truly call them his own; but a child has not one farthing
that is not its parents'. So here's my service to you, Miss,'
said he (again lifting the ale-mug to his mouth), 'and wishing
her a speedy refomiation of manners, I drink to her very
good health.'

John drank to the bottom of the mug, and then, shaking



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 309

the last drop into the ashes under the grate, he told the fol-
lowing stor)^ as he sat swinging the mug by its handle across
his two forefingers, which he had joined for that purpose :

' ^^'hen my father Avas a young man he lived at one Mr.
Speedgo's, as upper footman : they were vastly rich. Mr.
Speedgo was a merchant, and by good luck he gathered gold
as fast as his neighbours would pick up stones (as a body
may say). So they kept two or three carriages; there was a
coach, and a chariot, and a phaeton, and I can't tell what
besides, and a power of servants you may well suppose to
attend them all ; and very well they lived, with plenty of,
victuals and drink. But though they wanted for nothing,
still they never much loved either their master or mistress,
they used to give their orders in so haughty and imperious a
manner; and if asked a civil question, answer so shortly, as
if they thought their servants not worthy of their notice: so
that, in short, no one loved them, nor their children either,
for they brought them up just like themselves, to despise
every one poorer than they were, and to speak as cross to
their servants as if they had been so many adders they were
afraid would bite them.

' I have heard my father say that if Master Speedgo wanted
his horse to be got ready, he would say, " Saddle my horse!"'
in such a displeasing manner as made it quite a burthen to
do anything for him. Or if the young ladies wanted a piece
of bread and butter, or cake, they would say, " Give me a
bit of cake ;" or, if they added the word pray to it, they spoke
in such a grumpy way as plainly showed they thought them-
selves a great deal better than their servants, forgetting that
an honest servant is just as worthy a member of society as
his master, and, whilst he behaves well, as much deserving of
civility as anybody. But to go on with my story. I have
already told you Mr. Speedgo was very rich and very j)roud,
nor would he on any account suffer anyone to visit at his
house whom he thought below him, as he called it ; or, at
at least, if he did, he always took care to behave to them in
such a manner as plainly to let them know he thought he
showed a mighty favour in conversing with them.

' Among the rest of the servants there was one Molly



3IO STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.

Mount, as good a hearted girl, my father says, as ever hved:
she had never received much ecUication, because her parents
could not afford to give her any, and she learned to read
after she was at Mr. Speedgo's from one of the housemaids,
who was kind enough to teach her a little; but you may sup-
pose, from such sort of teaching, she was no very good
scholar. However, she read well enough to be able to make
out some chapters in the Bible; and an excellent use she
made of them, carefully fulfilling every duty she there found
recommended as necessary for a Christian to practise. She
used often to say she was perfectly contented in her station,
and only wished for more money that she might have it in
her power to do more good. And sometimes, when she was
dressing and attending the young ladies of the family she
would advise them to behave prettier than they did, telling
them, " That by kindness and civility they would be so far
from losing respect that, on the contrary, they would much
gain it. For we cannot (she would very truly say) have any
respect for those people who seem to forget their human
nature, and behave as if they thought themselves superior to
the rest of their fellow-creatures. Young ladies ancf gentle-
men have no occasion to make themselves very intimate or
familiar with their servants ; but everybody ought to speak
civilly and good-humouredly, let it be to whom it may : and
if I was a lady I should make it a point never to look cross
or speak gruffly to the poor, for fear they should think I
forgot I was of the same human nature as they were." By
these kind of hints, which every now and then she would
give to the misses, they were prodigiously offended, and com-
plained of her insolence, as they called it, to their mamma, who
very wrongly, instead of teaching them to behave better, joined
with them in blaming Molly for her freedom, and, to show
her displeasure at her conduct, put on a still haughtier air
whenever she spoke to her than she did to any other of the
servants. Molly, however, continued to behave extremely
well, and often very seriously lamented in the kitchen the
wrong behaviour of the family. " I don't mind it," she
would say, " for my own part ; I know I do my duty, and
their cross looks and proud behaviour can do me no real



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 311

harm: but I cannot help grieving for their sakes ; it distresses
me to think that people who ought to know better, should,
by their ill conduct, make themselves so many enemies, when
they could so easily gain friends — I am astonished how any-
body can act so foolishly."

' In this sensible manner she would frequently talk about
the sin as well as the folly of pride. And one day, as she
was talking to her fellow-servants, rather louder than in pru-
dence she ought to have done, her two young ladies over-
heard her ; and the next time she went to dress them they
inquired what it was she had been saying to the other maids.
" Indeed, ladies," said she, " I hope you will excuse my tell-
ing you. I think, if you give yourselves time to reflect a
little, you will not insist upon knowing, as it is beneath such
rich ladies as you are to concern yourselves with what poor
servants talk about." This answer did not, however, satisfy
them, and they positively commanded her to let them know.
Molly was by far too good a woman to attempt to deceive
any one; she therefore replied, " If, ladies, you insist upon
knowing what I said, I ho;:)e you will not take anything amiss
that I may tell you, thus compelled as I am by your com-
mands. You must know, then, Miss Betsy and Miss Rachel,
that I was saying how sad a thing it was for people to be
proud because they are rich ; or to fancy, because they
happen to have a little more money, that for that reason they
are better than their servants, when in reality the whole that
makes one person better than another is, having superior
virtues, being kinder and more good-natured, and readier to
assist and serve their fellow-creatures; these are the qualifi-
cations, I was saying, that make people beloved, and not
being possessed of money. Money may, indeed, procure
servants to do their business for them, but it is not in the
power of all the riches in the world to purchase the love and
esteem of any one. What a sad thing, then, it is when
gentlefolks behave so as to make themselves despised; and
that will ever be the case with those who like (excuse me,
ladies, you insisted upon my telling you what I said) Miss
Betsy, and Miss Rachel, and Master James, show such con-
tempt to all their inferiors. Nobody could wish children of



STOREHOUSE OF STORIES.



their fortunes to make themselves too free, or play with their

servants ; but if they were Httle kings and queens, still they
ought to speak kind and civil to everyone. Indeed our
king and queen would scorn to behave like the children of

this family, and if " She was going on, but they stopped

her, saying, " If you say another word we will push you out
of the room this moment, you rude, bold, insolent woman ;
you ought to be ashamed of speaking so disrespectfully of
your betters; but we will tell our mamma, that we will, and
she won't sufter you to allow yuur tongue such liberties."
" If," replied Molly, " I have offended you, I am sorry for it,
and beg your pardon, ladies ; I am sure I had no wish to do
so; and you should remember that you both insisted upon
my telling you what I had been saying." " So we did," said
they, " but you had no business to say it all ; and I promise
you my mamma shall know it."

' In this manner they went on for some time; but, to make
short of my story, they represented the matter in such a
manner to their mother, that she dismissed Molly from her
service, with a strict charge never to visit the house again.
"For," said Mrs. Speedgo, "no servant who behaves as you
have done shall ever enter my doors again, or eat another
mouthful in my house." Molly had no desire so suddenly to
quit her place; but as her conscience perfectly acquitted her
of any wilful crime, after receiving her wages, respectfully
wishing all the family their health, and taking a friendly leave
of her fellow-servants, she left the house, and soon engaged
herself as dairymaid in a farmer's family, about three miles
off; in which place she behaved so extremely well, and so
much to the satisfaction of her master and mistress, that,
after she had lived there a little more than two years, with
their entire approbation she was married to their eldest son,
a sober, worthy young man, to whom his father gave a for-
tune not much less than three thousand pounds, with which
he bought and stocked a very pretty farm in Somersetshire,
where they lived as happy as virtue and affluence could make
them. By industry and care they prospered be}'ond their
utmost expectations, and, by their prudence and good be-
haviour, gained the esteem and love of all who knew them.



LIFE OF A MOUSE. 313

' To their servants (for they soon acquired riches enough
to keep three or four, I mean household ones, besides the
number that were employed in the farming business) they
behaved with such kindness and civility, that had they even
given less wages than their neighbours, they would never
have been in want of any ; every one being desirous of
getting into a family where they were treated with such kind-
ness and condescension.

' In this happy manner they continued to live for many
years, bringing up a large family of children to imitate their
virtues ; but one great mortification they v/ere obliged to
submit to, which was that of putting their children very early
to boarding-school, a circumstance which the want of edu-



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeA storehouse of stories : storehouse the first → online text (page 28 of 43)