Cat and Mouse in Partnership – Elementary Level
Once upon a time a cat got to know a mouse. The two of them became such good friends that they decided to live together. They made their home in an empty space high inside an old tree that grew in a church yard. Each day they went out together to look for food. They were never hungry, and lived happily.
One day the Cat said to the Mouse, ‘we must put some food away for the winter. If we don’t, we will go hungry when there is no food to be found outside.’ The Mouse agreed, and they set off together to look for some kind of food that would not go bad if it was left until winter.
‘There!’ cried the Mouse, after they had been looking for a long time. She pointed to a pot of cooking fat in the corner of the church kitchen. ‘Fat will last for a very long time if it is not used,’ she said. ‘But where can we put it? There is no way to get it to our house.’
‘I know of no better place than inside the church,’ said the Cat. No one will take it away from there, and we won’t touch it until we need it.’ The Mouse agreed, and they pushed the pot into the church and hid it in a dark corner.
But it was not long before the Cat decided that it would be nice to see what the fat tasted like. One day she said to the Mouse, ‘I have just heard that my cousin has a little son, white with brown spots. She wants me to come to a party at which they will give it a name. Would you let me go out today? ‘It is not safe for you to go out alone, so you need to stay here and take care of the house.’
‘Yes, of course,’ answered the Mouse, ‘and when you eat anything good, think of me. I should very much like a drop of the red wine.’
But it was all untrue. The Cat had no cousin, and had not been asked to a party. She went straight to the church, found the pot of fat, and began to lick it. Soon the top part of the pot was empty. Then she took a walk on the roofs of the town, laid down in the sun, and licked her lips whenever she thought of the pot of fat. As soon as it was evening she went home again.
‘Ah, here you are again!’ said the Mouse. ‘Did you have a good day?’
‘It went off very well,’ answered the Cat.
‘What was the child’s name?’ asked the Mouse.
‘Top Off,’ said the Cat without excitement or emotion.
‘Top Off!’ said the Mouse, ‘That’s a strange name. Is it in your family?’
‘What is there strange about it?’ said the Cat. ‘It is no stranger than Bread-thief, as your sister’s child is called.’
Not long after this the Cat again decided that she would again like to taste the fat. She said to the Mouse, ‘You must again be kind enough to look after the house alone. I have been asked a second time to a naming party, and as this child has a white ring round its neck, I cannot say no.’
The kind Mouse agreed, but the Cat again went to the church, and ate up half of the pot of fat. ‘Nothing tastes better,’ said she, ‘than what one eats with nobody around,’ and she was very much pleased with her day’s work. When she came home the Mouse asked, ‘What was this child called?’
‘Half Gone,’ answered the Cat.
‘Half Gone! What a name! I have never heard it in my life. I don’t believe such a name has ever been written.’
Soon the Cat’s mouth began to water once more after the pot of fat. ‘All good things come in threes,’ she said to the Mouse. ‘I have been asked to another naming party. The child is quite black, and has very white paws, but not a single white hair on its body. This only happens once in two years, so will you let me go out?’
‘Top Off! Half Gone!’ said the Mouse. ‘They are such unusual names. They make me think something strange might be going on.’
‘Oh, you sit at home in your dark gray coat and your long tail,’ said the Cat, ‘and you think up silly ideas. That comes of not going out in the day.’
While the Mouse was giving their house a good cleaning, the greedy Cat ate up every bit of the fat.
‘When it is all gone one can be at rest,’ she said to herself, and at night she came home looking very happy. The Mouse asked at once after the third child’s name.
‘It won’t please you any better,’ said the Cat. ‘He was called All Gone.’
‘All Gone!’ laughed the Mouse. ‘I do not believe that name any more than the others. All Gone! What can it mean?’ She shook her head, curled herself up, and went to sleep.
From this time on no one asked the Cat to a naming party. Soon the winter came and there was no food to be found outside. The Mouse remembered the pot of fat. ‘Come, Cat,’ she said, ‘we will go to the food that we put away for winter. It will taste very good.’
‘Yes,’ thought the Cat. ‘It will taste as good to you as if you stuck your thin tongue out of the window.’
They started off, and when they reached it they found the pot in its place, but quite empty.
‘Ah,’ said the Mouse, ‘now I know what has happened! It has all come out! You are a true friend to me! You have eaten it all when you went to the naming parties; first the top off, then half gone, then——’
‘Will you be quiet!’ screamed the Cat. ‘Another word and I will eat you up.’
‘All gone’ was already on the poor Mouse’s tongue, and as she said it the Cat jumped upon her and ate her.
You see, that is the way of the world.