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The Cat and the Mouse in Partnership
A Cat, having made the acquaintance of a Mouse, told her so much of the great love and affection that she bore to her, that the Mouse at last consented to live in the same house with the Cat, and to have their domestic affairs in common. "But we must provide for the winter," said the Cat, "or we shall be starved: you little Mouse cannot go anywhere, or you will meet with an accident." This advice was followed, and a pot was brought with some grease in it. However, when they had got it they could not imagine where it should be put; at last, after a long consideration, the Cat said, "I know no better place to put it than in the church, for there no one dares to steal anything; we will set it beneath the altar, and not touch it till we really want it."
So the pot was put away in safety; but not a long while afterwards the Cat began to wish for it again, so she spoke to the Mouse and said, "I have to tell you that I am asked by my aunt to stand godmother to a little son, white with brown marks, whom she has just brought into the world, and so I must go to the christening. Let me go out today, and do you stop at home and keep house." "Certainly," answered the Mouse, "pray go; and if you eat anything nice think of me: I would also willingly drink a little of the sweet red christening wine." But it was all a story; for the Cat had no aunt, and had not been asked to stand godmother. She went straight to the church, crept up to the grease-pot, and licked it till she had eaten off the top; then she took a walk on the roofs of the houses in the town, thinking over her situation, and now and then stretching herself in the sun and stroking her whiskers as often as she thought of the pot of fat. When it was evening she went home again, and the Mouse said, "So you have come at last: what a charming day you must have had!"
"Yes," answered the Cat, "it went off very well."
"What have you named the kitten?" asked the Mouse.
"Top-off," said the Cat very quickly.
"Top-off," replied the Mouse; "that is a curious and remarkable name: is it common in your family?"
"What does that matter?" said the Cat; "it is not worse than Crumb-stealer, as your children are called."
Not long afterwards the Cat felt the same longing as before, and said to the Mouse, "You must oblige me by taking care of the house once more by yourself; I am again asked to stand godmother, and, since the youngster has a white ring around his neck, I cannot get off the invitation." So the good little Mouse consented, and the Cat crept away behind the wall to the church again, and ate half the contents of the grease-pot. "Nothing tastes better than what one eats by oneself," said she, quite contented with her day's work; and when she came home the Mouse asked how this child was named.
"Half-out," answered the Cat.
"Half-out! what do you mean? I never heard such a name before in my life; I will wager anything it is not in the calendar."
The Cat's mouth now began to water again at the recollection of the feasting. "All good things come in threes," said she to the Mouse. "I am again required to be a godmother; this child is quite black and has little white claws, but not a single white hair on his body; such a thing only happens once in two years, so pray excuse me this time."
"Top-off! Half-out!" answered the Mouse; "these are such curious names, they make me a bit suspicious."
"Ah," replied the Cat, "there you sit in your gray coat and long tail, thinking nonsense. That comes of never going out."
The Mouse busied herself during the Cat's absence in putting the house in order, but meanwhile greedy puss licked the grease-pot clean out. "When it is all done one will rest in peace," thought she to herself, and as soon as night came she went home fat and tired. The Mouse, however, again asked what name the third child had received. "It will not please you any better," answered the Cat, "for he is called All-out."
"All-out!" exclaimed the Mouse; "well that is certainly the most curious name by far. I have never yet seen it in print. All-out! what can that mean?" and shaking her head, she rolled herself up and went to sleep.
After that nobody else asked the Cat to stand godmother; but the winter had arrived, and nothing more was to be picked up out of doors, so the Mouse bethought herself of their store of provision, and said, "Come, mistress Cat, we will go to our grease-pot which we laid by; it will taste well now."
"Yes, indeed," replied the Cat, "it will taste as well as if you stroked your tongue against the window."
So they set out on their journey, and when they arrived at the church the pot stood in its old place but it was empty! "Ah," said the Mouse, "I see what has happened; now I know you are indeed a faithful friend. You have eaten the whole as you stood godmother, first Top-off, then Half-out, then "
"Will you be quiet?" cried the Cat. "Not a word, or I'll eat you." But the poor Mouse had "All-out" at her tongue's end, and had scarcely uttered it when the Cat made a spring, seized her in her mouth and swallowed her.
This happens every day in the world.
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