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There was a gentle scratching behind the wainscoting, very, very quiet but enough to cause baby Felicity to murmur in her cot. Joey raised a weary head from her pillow. During teething time she responded to the slightest sound from the night nursery but after two dreadful nights with Felix she was desperate for a good night’s sleep. It was with great relief that she heard nothing further and dropped back into the softness of the down pillow, and into a deep, deep sleep.
*************
The scratching continued and then a tiny shape emerged from a hole which had gone unnoticed by Anna and the Coadjutor when sweeping the nursery. A grey-brown shape scurried across the floor and slipped under the door to the playroom. He was followed by a second shape, slightly smaller, and the two of them came to a halt in front of a magnificent dolls house.

“It’s not this one,” breathed the first shape. “This is the one we explored when they first arrived, Wilhelmina – you remember, don’t you?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvma9hU1JKg) he said, turning to his mouse-wife. “Yes indeed,” she squeaked. “And you smashed up all the food because you couldn’t get a knife into it. You made a dreadful mess”.

“Well it wasn’t just me,” her husband bridled. “I seem to remember you made enough mess yourself, up in the bedroom, throwing all those feathers about”.

“Ooh Humperdinck,” she squeaked in outraged response. “You know you started it! All those lovely French plumeaux, wrecked just because you lost your temper”.

“How do you know they were French?” he asked curiously.

“Because I pay attention when the children are playing in here,” she said. “They speak only French when they are playing with this big house. They call it La Maison de Poupees. I think it’s practice for when they go off to that other place – you remember your cousin Fred who lives in the kitchen there – so scary with that giant cook and her cat always on the lookout for any of us - told you that all the girls there have to speak different languages on different days of the week. Having a French dolls house will give our children a head start on the others.”

She looked very proud at the thought. “And what’s more,” she added, “it was one of the children – the dark dreamy one – who was responsible for getting this second house. She is very, very clever. She’s my favourite.”

“Well, never mind all that now,” said her husband. “I want to explore this second house. We haven’t been able to get in here for ages with that massive dog prowling around, and now we have managed I want to make the most of it.”

His wife looked across the vast expanse of floor between them and the house.

“I think that’s too far away for me to visit it today,” she sighed. “I really haven’t got the energy after producing 14 babies so recently. Thank you so much for bringing me all those bits of lime-green wool though. I have made such a cosy nest for the wee ones. Where did you find it by the way?”

Her husband looked a bit shame-faced. “Oh I just saw it lying around,” he said airily, carefully omitting to mention that he had detached it from a rather nice cardigan he had found in one of the big bedrooms.

“Well, wherever it came from, the colour is so unusual – just like a green grass lawn. I love it.” She lovingly patted his left paw. “But I really am very tired…..”

“Oh come on, darling,” said Humperdinck. “I’ll help you across the floor, and just think what fun it will be to explore the place. I rather like the look of that yellow roof. We could pull some of it off to make beds for the babies when they have grown a little.”

“Well I like the little windows, all squares, and the black and white outside. I should just love to see inside….” She tailed off as she realized that Humperdinck had vanished. Then she looked round as she heard a bumping sound coming from the far corner of the playroom. Humperdinck appeared, huffing and puffing as he pushed a large, brightly coloured tin car across the floor. (http://www.antiquetrader.com/wp-content/uploads/Toledo-BuickFW.jpg)

“Jump in this,” he said, “and I will push you across to the house. I can’t work out how to wind it up by myself, otherwise we could both travel in style”.

“Oh my paws and whiskers!” said Wilhelmina, “I shall feel just like a queen!” She climbed in and sat proudly behind the steering wheel as Humperdinck huffed and puffed some more, right across to the front door of the yellow thatched house.

The little front door stood invitingly ajar. For a moment the two mice hesitated, looking around anxiously to make sure no one – and particularly no giant dog – was there to stop them going in. Then, just for form’s sake, Humperdinck bravely raised the little brass doorknocker and when, predictably, there was no reply, he pushed the door a little wider and ushered his wife through into the hallway of the house.

There they both stopped in amazement. At the bottom of the beautifully carpeted stairs there stood, glowing in the dark, a fully decorated Christmas tree. (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-LXFKU0a6M_8/UPSGiu64tyI/AAAAAAAADlU/lMzQB8zxzyc/s1600/halltree.jpg) The floor below it was covered with gaily wrapped parcels.

“Just as if they were expecting us…” breathed Wilhelmina.
But Humperdinck, always the more adventurous of the pair, had already moved on into the next room. “Just come and look at this, Wilhelmina!” he squealed. “More food!”

She scurried to join him. (https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/ee/3a/86/ee3a86aabc7bb3b4ca3a959fde01ff8d.jpg)

“And another tree!” she said, completely overawed. “They must be very rich. But I don’t think this food is edible either, Humpy. We could borrow all the china and decorations for our own dinner though. But this time we will bring everything back so no one will know that we have been. Let’s explore properly first, and then gather up some things and hurry home to our children.”

So that’s what they did. They ran up the stairs, admired the cotton bedding, the best bed linen made out of handkerchiefs (Wilhelmina knew all about handkerchiefs after being trapped once in a room with a human being with a bad cold), the very practical bathroom, complete with soap and sponge, the wonderful framed pictures on the walls – all signed with the initials PW as the sharp-eyed Wilhelmina pointed out – and when they had looked their fill they loaded up the little car with all the things that Wilhelmina thought would make a very happy Christmas for them and their family.

And so it did…..
************************************
Joey yawned and stretched. A peaceful, unbroken night for once, but what a very strange dream.
Or was it?

(With apologies from Robin to Beatrix Potter – and a bow to Mary Norton.)



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