A CAT having made the acquaintance of a mouse, told her so much of the great love and affection that he had for her, that the mouse at last consented to live in the same house with him, 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 everywhere looking for food, 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; but 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 organ, and not touch it till we really want it.”
So the pot was put away in safety; but not long afterward the cat began to wish for it again, so he spoke to the mouse and said: “I have to tell you that I am asked by my aunt to stand godfather 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 to-day, 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, alas! it was all a story; for the cat had no aunt, and had not been asked to stand godfather to any one. He went straight to the church, crept up to the grease-pot, and licked it till he had eaten off the top; then he took a walk on the roofs of the houses in the town, thinking over his situation, and now and then stretching himself in the sun and stroking his whiskers as often as he thought of his meal. When it was evening he 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 afterward 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 godfather, and, since the youngster has a white ring round 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 one’s self,” said he, quite contented with his day’s work; and when he 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,” but the cat replied nothing.
Pussy’s mouth soon began to water again at the recollection of the feasting. “All good things come in threes,” said he to the mouse. “I am again required to be godfather; 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; “those 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 he to himself, and as soon as night came he 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 godfather; 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, friend 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 godfather; first Top-off, then Half-out, then—”
“Will you be quiet?” cried the cat. “Not a word, or I’ll eat you.” But the mouse had “All-out” at her tongue’s end, and had scarcely uttered it when the cat made a spring for the mouse. Luckily the mouse had sensed the danger and leapt out of the way in time, and scurried into a hole in the wall where the cat could not reached it.
The mouse learned from that day on to distrust the cat, and so it is now all mice scurry away in a hurry when they see a cat.