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Telling the story of two mice, Johnny Town-mouse and Timmy Willie. One is a town-mouse and one is a country-mouse, and when they end up in each other’s worlds, they soon discover that they were much happier where they started. Based on an Aesop fable, Beatrix Potter relocates this tale to the Lake District. The town mouse, Johnny, lives under the floorboards of a house in Hawkshead, and the country mouse, Timmy Willie, in a cottage garden.
5 pages with a reading time of ~15 minutes (1363 words), and first published in 1918. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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Johnny Town-mouse was born in a cupboard. Timmy Willie was born in a garden. Timmy Willie was a little country mouse who went to town by mistake in a hamper. The gardener sent vegetables to town once a week by carrier; he packed them in a big hamper.
The gardener left the hamper by the garden gate, so that the carrier could pick it up when he passed. Timmy Willie crept in through a hole in the wicker-work, and after eating some peas–Timmy Willie fell fast asleep.
He awoke in a fright, while the hamper was being lifted into the carrier’s cart. Then there was a jolting, and a clattering of horse’s feet; other packages were thrown in; for miles and miles–jolt–jolt–jolt! and Timmy Willie trembled amongst the jumbled up vegetables.
At last the cart stopped at a house, where the hamper was taken out, carried in, and set down. The cook gave the carrier sixpence; the back door banged, and the cart rumbled away. But there was no quiet; there seemed to be hundreds of carts passing. Dogs barked; boys whistled in the street; the cook laughed, the parlour maid ran up and down-stairs; and a canary sang like a steam engine.
Timmy Willie, who had lived all his life in a garden, was almost frightened to death. Presently the cook opened the hamper and began to unpack the vegetables. Out sprang the terrified Timmy Willie.
Up jumped the cook on a chair, exclaiming “A mouse! a mouse! Call the cat! Fetch me the poker, Sarah!” Timmy Willie did not wait for Sarah with the poker; he rushed along the skirting board till he came to a little hole, and in he popped.
He dropped half a foot, and crashed into the middle of a mouse dinner party, breaking three glasses.–“Who in the world is this?” inquired Johnny Town-mouse. But after the first exclamation of surprise he instantly recovered his manners.
With the utmost politeness he introduced Timmy Willie to nine other mice, all with long tails and white neckties. Timmy Willie’s own tail was insignificant. Johnny Town-mouse and his friends noticed it; but they were too well bred to make personal remarks; only one of them asked Timmy Willie if he had ever been in a trap?
The dinner was of eight courses; not much of anything, but truly elegant. All the dishes were unknown to Timmy Willie, who would have been a little afraid of tasting them; only he was very hungry, and very anxious to behave with company manners. The continual noise upstairs made him so nervous, that he dropped a plate. “Never mind, they don’t belong to us,” said Johnny.
“Why don’t those youngsters come back with the dessert?” It should be explained that two young mice, who were waiting on the others, went skirmishing upstairs to the kitchen between courses. Several times they had come tumbling in, squeaking and laughing; Timmy Willie learnt with horror that they were being chased by the cat. His appetite failed, he felt faint. “Try some jelly?” said Johnny Town-mouse.
“No? Would you rather go to bed? I will show you a most comfortable sofa pillow.”
The sofa pillow had a hole in it. Johnny Town-mouse quite honestly recommended it as the best bed, kept exclusively for visitors. But the sofa smelt of cat. Timmy Willie preferred to spend a miserable night under the fender.
It was just the same next day. An excellent breakfast was provided–for mice accustomed to eat bacon; but Timmy Willie had been reared on roots and salad. Johnny Town-mouse and his friends racketted about under the floors, and came boldly out all over the house in the evening. One particularly loud crash had been caused by Sarah tumbling downstairs with the tea-tray; there were crumbs and sugar and smears of jam to be collected, in spite of the cat.
Timmy Willie longed to be at home in his peaceful nest in a sunny bank. The food disagreed with him; the noise prevented him from sleeping. In a few days he grew so thin that Johnny Town-mouse noticed it, and questioned him. He listened to Timmy Willie’s story and inquired about the garden. “It sounds rather a dull place? What do you do when it rains?”
“When it rains, I sit in my little sandy burrow and shell corn and seeds from my Autumn store. I peep out at the throstles and blackbirds on the lawn, and my friend Cock Robin. And when the sun comes out again, you should see my garden and the flowers–roses and pinks and pansies–no noise except the birds and bees, and the lambs in the meadows.”