Would you believe it if I told you that a cat wanted to make friends with a mouse? The mouse did not believe it either, but it is true.
'I'm very fond of you, little whiskers,' said the cat.
'Why?' asked the mouse. 'Do you want to eat me?'
'Good heavens, no!' exclaimed the cat. 'I only want to be friendly.'
'I don't trust you,' said the mouse.
'Oh, come now,' replied the cat. 'I'm lonely and so are you. Winter is coming on. It will be dark and cold. If we live together we can keep each other company and help each other to find food.'
'I know who will be the food!' said the mouse.
'Nonsense,' said the cat. 'I love you far too much.'
'I'll think about it,' said the mouse.
In the end, she agreed to set up house with the cat. They found a comfortable, broken-down cottage. It was so old that only animals ever used it. There, they cleaned up one room to their liking and laid down plenty of warm straw.
'We must get a store of food for the winter,' said the cat, 'or we shall go hungry. There will not be much food around when the ground is thick with snow. It will be dangerous for you to go out in the winter, little whiskers. I'll not be able to get you out of every trap you fall into.'
'A pot of dripping would be nice,' said the mouse.
'That would be very good,' agreed the cat.
They stole a pot of dripping from the larder of a house and they hid it in the safest place they could think of. They hid it under the altar in the nearby church.
'No one will dare go looking for it there,' said the cat.
'We must not touch it until the winter is very cold and we are hungry,' said the mouse.
'Agreed,' said the cat. 'It shall be our secret store when times get bad.'
They settled into their new life together quite happily. The mouse kept a careful eye on the cat, in case she should get a little too hungry for safety. Happily, the cat behaved herself and life was peaceful.
Soon enough the cat began to think about the pot of dripping hidden underneath the altar. The more she thought about it, the more she longed for it.
'I deserver a treat for behaving so well,' she said to herself. 'Friendship is a great strain when one is hungry.'
One day, she could not wait no longer.
'Little whiskers,' she said to the mouse, 'my cousin has just had a son and has asked me to be godmother. I hear he is a charming child, white with brown spots. Can you imagine such a pretty kitten?'
The mouse shivered. 'Kittens are just as dangerous as cats, in my opinion,' she said.
'I must hold him at the font when he is baptized,' said the cat. 'You will not mind if I go out for the day and leave you to look after the house, will you?'
'Of course not,' said the mouse, 'but don't bring the kitten or your cousin back here, that's all.'
The cat went straight off to the church. There was no cousin and kitten. She crept beneath the altar and began to lick greedily at the pot of dripping. It was so good that she licked the whole of the top off.
'Delicious,' she murmured. 'Quite delicious.'
She went for a stroll along the rooftops. She lay out in the afternoon sun. She purred and stretched and rubbed her whiskers with her paws every time she thought about the hidden pot of dripping.
'Life is not altogether bad,' she thought.
She did not return home until evening.
'How was it?' said the cat. 'Very, Very good.'
'What was its name?' asked the mouse.
'Name? Name?' said the cat in surprise.
'The kitten did have a name, didn't it?' asked the mouse.
'Oh, the kitten, yes, of course,' said the cat. 'Topoff was its name.'
'Topoff!' exclaimed the mouse. 'That's funny sort of name.'
'Well, it was a funny sort of kitten,' said the cat. 'It's rather like your nephew being called Crumbstealer.'
'That's true,' thought the mouse, and said not more about it. They continued their life together as before.
Not for long!
The cat could not forget about the hidden pot of dripping. It seemed wrong that the pot should lie there with its top off. What it someone should find it? What if someone else should ate it? The thought was too terrible.
'Dear little whiskers,' said the cat, 'there seems to be a rush of births in my family just now. Another cousin has asked me to be godmother to her child. She says that the kitten has a beautiful white ring around its neck. Who could refuse to be godmother to such a creature?'
'I could,' said the mouse.
'You will not mind if I go off for the day again, will you?' asked the cat. 'Keep the house nice and warm while I'm away. I'll not be long.'
'Have a good time,' called the mouse, 'and bring me back some wine this time.'
'I will, I will,' said the cat.
She raced along the town walls and in through the back of the church. The dripping tasted even better than before.
'It's true,' thought the cat. 'The best things in life are the things that you save for yourself.'
By the time she had finished licking the dripping, it was half gone.
It was nightfall before she got home.
'How did it go?' asked the mouse.
'No trouble,' replied the cat. 'It went very quickly. I met some friends afterwards. That's why I'm little late.'
'What was this one's name?' asked the mouse.
'Halfgone!' exclaimed the mouse. 'What sort of name is that? It's not a saint's name, that's for sure.'
'A family name, I think,' said the cat. 'One of those middle names that people pass down from generation to generation, like Cheesenibbler in your family.'
'It sounds unlikely,' said the mouse.
'Never mind,' said the cat. 'People have strange ideas, you know?'
The cat tried not to think about the dripping for several days. It was no good. She worried about it more and more.
'I should not leave the pot half empty,' she said to herself. 'It's sure to go mouldy now that it's been started. My mother always told me, never leave a job half finished. I had better go along and clean it up.'
She said to the mouse, 'You will never believe this.'
'Probably not,' said the mouse.
'It seems that good things always come in threes,' said the cat. 'Another kitten has been born.'
'And you are to be godmother?' said the mouse.
'That's right,' said the cat. 'How did you guess?'
'Bad things also come in threes,' said the mouse.
'Ah, little whiskers, you must not be jealous,' said the cat. 'This kitten is quite black, except for its big white paws. You never saw such a delightful kitten in your life.'
'No kittens are delightful,' said the mouse.
'But you will not mind if I go just this last time, will you, little whiskers?' asked the cat.
'Topoff! Halfgone! I wonder what this one will be called?' said the mouse.
'Don't you trouble your little grey head about it,' said the cat. 'That's what comes from sitting at home all the time. You get fanciful ideas and worry about nothing. You ought to get out more. You ought to make friends.'
'I thought you were my friend,' said the mouse.
'Of course I am, little whiskers,' said the cat. 'I'll look after you. Now, I must be off or I'll be late.'
This time, the cat turned the pot of dripping right over on its side and stuck her paw down to the very bottom. She wiped away the last morsels of dripping and licked her paw clean. She looked inside the pot. It was all gone.
'Why do the best things in life never last long?' she said.
She walked slowly back along the town walls, feeling full and a little sad.
'Was it fun?' asked the mouse.
'I must admit,' said the cat, 'I was sorry to leave.'
'Are you going to tell me the name?' asked the mouse.
'You will not like it,' said the cat.
'Try me,' said the mouse.
'Allgone,' said the cat.
'I don't like it,' said the mouse.
'Well,' said the cat, 'it's no worse than your cousin being called Holegnawer.'
'I still don't like it,' said the mouse, and went to sleep.
The cat was not asked to be godmother again. Soon the winter set in. The earth became icy hard. Snow settled on the frozen ground. Food was difficult to find and the mouse was getting hungry.
'How about our pot of dripping?' she asked the cat.
'How about it?' said the cat.
'It should taste pretty good by now,' said the mouse.
'It should, I agree,' said the cat.
'Do you think the pot will be safe?' asked the mouse.
'Oh, the pot is sure to be safe,' said the cat. 'It's the dripping I'm worried about,' she said to herself.
'Come on, let's go and see,' said the mouse.
'I'm afraid,' said the cat, 'that it will do us about as much good as a mouthful of cold air.'
'Fresh air is good for us,' said the mouse. 'You said so yourself.'
'Oh, dear,' said the cat. 'Here we go.'
They reached the church and the mouse ran underneath the altar.
'Here is the pot,' she called, 'but where is the dripping?'
'All gone, by the look of it,' said the cat.
'You greasy-pawed fur-ball!' shrieked the mouse. 'You thief! You cheat! You liar! So much for your friendship! All that nonsense about godmothers and kittens! I see it all now.'
'Quite, little whiskers,' said the cat. 'I can explain it all.'
'Oh, can you?' shrilled the mouse. 'A kitten with brown spots! I remember there were brown spots on top of the dripping. Another kitten with a white ring round its neck! That was the white dripping below the top of the pot, was it not? And a third kitten with black fur and white paws? What was that, then? The black, empty pot and the white dripping at the bottom!'
The mouse was jumping up and down with furry.
'Topoff!' she shrieked. 'Halfgone!' she shrilled.
'Shut up,' said the cat, 'or you will be . . .'
'Allgone!' screamed the mouse.
The cat sprang on her and gobbled her up.
That is the way of the world, you see!