Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ashley Sterne The Stilton's Revenge


From the Huon Times (Franklin, Tasmania) October 1, 1920


If you have tears prepare to shed them now. If you haven't, don't bother.

Some sorrows lie too deep for tears. This may be one of them. Carry on, sergeant-major.

I recently came into possession of an old Stilton and a new mouse. The former was very wild; the latter bid fair to become very tame. I had lost all my old mice months before in a trap, and though I had gone to great pains to exterminate them, I felt sorry when the supply was exhausted.

I missed their nightly gnawings at my furniture, albeit they had gnawed the legs off my grand piano, so that when I wanted to play, "Everything is bloaters down in Yarmouth" I had to lie on the floor. I missed them scuttling into the china cupboard and throwing the crockery about. In other words, I missed them; and of all the absences which make the heart grow fonder mouse-missing, is perhaps the most poignant. Therefore I was not a little pleased when Mrs. Danks, my housekeeper, announced one night that a new mouse had arrived.

"'What name?" I asked, "and has it brought a character or letters of introduction?"

Mrs. Danks assured me that the mouse was anonymouse and had brought nothing but what it stood up in.

"Well," I said, "ask it to sit down. I will interview it before I go to bed, and decide what to do about it. Is the spare mouse-trap well-aired?"

Mrs. Danks said it was.

Later I went into the kitchen to interview the new mouse. It was sitting in front of the grate fanning itself with its tail.

At once I decided it might remain. I would be kind to it, and tame it, and train it. Then one day it might eventually be able to help Mrs. Danks with the beds or the dusting; it might even learn to bring up my early morning tea, my letters, the hot water — anything so long as it didn't bring up a family. I would start kindness to mice that very evening. I would give it a piece of my fine old Chippendale Stilton.

Now this Stilton, I should explain, has been in our family for some years. It was originally given to my Uncle Peter by a cheese fancier. Two years later Uncle Peter gave it to my brother Herbert as a birthday present. Herbert, who collects antiques, kept it for some time in a birdcage outside his backdoor until his neighbors presented him with an ultimatum to the effect that either Herbert's or the Stilton's removal from the neighborhood was desired. Then Herbert presented the Stilton to me.

The mouse, however, would not touch the cheese. It exhibited symptoms of terror at the very sight of it. It ran panic-stricken six times around the room and finally collapsed in a state of violent hysteria on the floor of the larder. As I did not know any remedy for collapsed hysterical mice I left it there.

Some time during that night a dark deed was done — a brutal crime unparalleled in the history of mice and cheese. Early the following morning Mrs. Danks reported finding the Stilton on the floor in a state of heavy torpor, and the tail of the mouse a short distance away. No trace of the rest of the mouse was to be found anywhere. It was all too clear what had happened. The fierce, untamed Stilton had eaten the mouse.

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