The Shining Mouse

The Shining Mouse

There was once a time, and there always will be, when a man lived alone in a little house. He was really quite happy, because the house had most things he needed in it. It had a number of rooms, a cellar, five windows, and all that went with them. He never really went out of his house, but he often watched people out of his windows. This didn’t seem to bother him too much, because he managed to get all that was necessary; but he did feel lonely sometimes.

It was during one of these times of loneliness that he first heard the noise. It was not a noise he could really describe and say, ‘Ah yes, that’s running water,’ or, ‘Of course, it is the fire crackling.’ No, it was just a faint noise that set him wondering what it was, and where it came from. He had just been thinking that he really didn’t know what to do about his loneliness when it occurred. He got up and looked all through the house and out of the windows, but could find no trace, for there didn’t seem to be anything about that would cause such a noise.

After that he began to hear the noise quite often, and he used to make himself quite ill trying to think what it was. Or at least, he would think so hard he would get a headache and not eat his tea.

Well, this went on for a long time, and he was getting headaches all over the place, till one day he thought, ‘This is silly, I don’t know what the noise is. I have looked everywhere and can’t find out where it comes from. And if I don’t know what it is, or where it is coming from, how will thinking about it help? All I get is headaches.’ So he gave up trying to figure it out and began to eat his tea again. The strange thing was though, that the same evening, while he was sitting by the fire darning his socks, and eating his tea of brown bread and honey, he saw the noise.

I know that sounds silly, and one doesn’t see noises, but what I really mean is that he saw what had been making the noise all along. As I said, he was sitting by the fire, really not thinking about the noise, when out of the side of his eye he saw something shining in the corner of the room.

It was a little shining mouse as bright as sunlight, yet not casting any shadows. It was brilliant, yet you could look straight at it without being dazzled. Now, as soon as he saw the shining mouse he didn’t feel lonely any more. He didn’t mind darning his socks; which had always seemed a tiresome job; and he didn’t even mind eating brown bread and honey instead of cream cakes. In fact he didn’t seem to mind anything any more. He even thought of asking somebody in for tea one day. Maybe not straight away, but it was an idea.

You see, this all came over him in a flash. You know, like when you trip over, wonder what’s going to happen, then manage to stop yourself falling, and lots seemed to have happened very quickly. Well, it was like that. Seeing all this very quickly he thought, ‘I must have the shining mouse!’ and he ran to it to catch it. But something very strange happened, for as he ran to it the mouse got bigger and bigger. At first it was the size of a rat, then of a cat. Then it was as big as a house, and then as big as the world. The man was so startled by this that he stopped and looked around, only to see that it wasn’t the mouse that had got bigger, but he who had got smaller. Then he looked back, but the mouse had disappeared, and he was his normal size again in his room.

It had gone – almost as if it had never been there. Not even the noise that its shining made was there. For a little while at least he carried on darning his socks without minding. He ate his brown bread and honey without thinking, ‘I wish I could have cream cakes. I have brown bread and honey every day.’ And he carried on thinking vaguely about inviting someone in for tea. Then it gradually wore off, and he hated darning socks, he longed for cream cakes, and he didn’t think about inviting anybody in for tea, at any time.

So the days passed, and he wondered about the mouse. ‘It must be a magic mouse,’ he said to himself. ‘If only I could catch it I could do all sorts of wonderful things with it. Just think! I would always be happy. I could set my heart on anything and do it without being put off by being lazy, or doubtful or anything, I could show it to other people as well. It would make the troubled happy, the sick well, the unloved lovely; and I would become a very important man, and be thought of as very clever. Just think of that! People all over the world would want to come and see me!’

This time it wasn’t headaches he had, but sleepless nights. All the time he was wondering how he could catch the mouse. It became so terrible for him that he even set traps to catch it alive. Nowadays he often heard it, sometimes even saw it, but it always managed to elude his grasp.

In the end he became desperate. He took his chopper and began knocking holes in the walls, chopping up floorboards, poking about in the cellar, and moving everything upstairs; which made an awful mess, because some of it had got so dirty over the years. He ate hardly anything. He didn’t sleep very much, or wash, he just tore the house apart. But, oh dear, he couldn’t find that shining mouse. He couldn’t even find its nest or dwelling place. And then suddenly he began to cry. He really did cry; and the tears made white streaks down his face as they washed the dirt off. Then he fell asleep and had a long rest.

When he woke up he saw how his greediness and desire for fame had made him almost destroy his house. So, slowly he began to repair all the damage he had done, and clean up all the mess. In the same way that he had given up thinking about the noise, he now gave up trying to find the mouse. He was just so pleased to know it was there at all, and to see it occasionally.

And do you know what? Because he no longer chased it, that little mouse became so tame it slowly began to be about the house most of the time. When I last heard, it had started eating brown bread and honey for tea. He is the happiest man in the world.

So, if ever you are invited to tea by a man who doesn’t mind darning socks, or eating brown bread and honey for tea every day, just ask him if you might have a peep at his shining mouse!

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