hilst you were sleeping, little Dear-my-soul, strange things happened; but that I saw and heard them, I should never have believed them. The clock stood, of course, in the corner, a moonbeam floated idly on the floor, and a little mauve mouse came from the hole in the chimney corner and frisked and scampered in the light of the moonbeam upon the floor. The little mauve mouse was particuÂlarly merry; sometimes she danced upon two legs and sometimes upon four legs, but always very daintily and always very merrily.
“Ah, me!” sighed the old clock, “how different mice are nowadays from the mice we used to have in the good old times! Now there was your grandma, Mistress Velvetpaw, and there was your grandpa, Master SniffÂwhisker,—how grave and dignified they were! Many a night have I seen them dancing upon the carpet below me, but always the stately minuet and never that crazy frisking which you are executing now, to my surprise—yes, and to my horror, too.”
“But why shouldn’t I be merry?” asked the little mauve mouse. “Tomorrow is Christmas, and this is Christmas eve.”
“So it is,” said the old clock. “I had really forgotten all about it. But, tell me, what is Christmas to you, little Miss Mauve Mouse?”
“A great deal to me!” cried the little mauve mouse. “I have been very good a very long time: I have not used any bad words, nor have I gnawed any holes, nor have I stolen any canary seed, nor have I worried my mother by running behind the flour-barrel where that horrid trap is set. In fact, I have been so good that I am very sure Santa Claus will bring me something very pretty.”
This seemed to amuse the old clock mightily; in fact the old clock fell to laughing so heartily that in an unguarded moment she struck twelve instead of ten, which was exceedÂingly careless and therefore to be repreÂhended.
“Why, you silly little mauve mouse,” said the old clock, “you don’t believe in Santa Claus, do you?”
“Of course I do,” answered the little mauve mouse. “Believe in Santa Claus? Why shouldn’t I? Didn’t Santa Claus bring me a beautiful butter-cracker last Christmas, and a lovely gingerÂsnap, and a delicious rind of cheese, and—and—lots of things? I should be very ungrateful if I did not believe in Santa Claus, and I certainly shall not disbelieve in him at the very moment when I am expecting him to arrive with a bundle of goodies for me.
“I once had a little sister,” continued the little mauve mouse, “who did not believe in Santa Claus, and the very thought of the fate that befell her makes my blood run cold and my whiskers stand on end. She died before I was born, but my mother has told me all about her. Perhaps you never saw her: her name was SqueakÂnibble, and she was in stature one of those long, low, rangy mice that are seldom found in well-stocked pantries. Mother says that SqueakÂnibble took after our ancestors who came from New England, where the malignant ingenuity of the people and the ferocity of the cats rendered life precarious indeed....