SAVE MISS PATTY GREY-FUR

BUT it was not nearly such a nice day as it had been yesterday. The
sun never shone at all, and the snow fell in such big, thick flakes
that sometimes they could hardly see a yard in front of them.
Besides, a cold north wind was blowing, and it made the stream so
rough that their raft danced up and down on the tiny waves, and more
than once they were nearly upset.

The fields that lay on either side of the stream were quite empty,
and it seemed as if everybody but Fuzz and Buzz thought it wiser to
stay at home on such a cold day.

But about twelve o’clock they saw a tomtit hopping about on the
branches of a willow-tree that grew near the water, and after
looking at them in surprise for a moment he asked them where they
were going.

They told him that they were going to see their aunt, Miss Patty
Grey-Fur.

“Oh, are you?” said the tomtit. “Well, I should be sorry to call
Miss Patty Grey-Fur an aunt of mine. Why are you going to see her?”

“Because we want some corn,” said Fuzz.

“She won’t give you any,” said the tomtit. “She is the meanest old
mouse that ever lived in a barn. You should just hear some of the
tales that are told of her in these parts. You would turn round and
go home if I told you one-half of what I know about her.”

“Then we would rather not hear it, thank you,” said Fuzz quickly,
“for we must go on.”

“Just as you like, of course,” said the tomtit. But he was very
sorry all the same to find that they would not listen to him, for
tomtits like telling tales about their friends. That is why they are
often called “tale-tits”. Then he flew away; and as Fuzz and Buzz
floated on alone, they asked each other what sort of a mouse their
aunt could be.

“We shall soon know,” said Buzz; “and it can’t be true that she
won’t give us any corn.”

All that afternoon their tiny raft sailed on and on, and at last,
just as it was beginning to get dark, they heard the loud roar of
the river into which their stream would soon flow. As they had no
wish to be carried down by it to the sea, they stood up on their
little hind legs, so as to be ready to catch hold of the first
branch that came within their reach. And a minute or two later they
were both clinging to the branch of a weeping-willow tree, and,
running along it, they soon reached the bank, from which they
watched the little piece of wood which had carried them so far and
so well floating on without them.

Luckily for Fuzz and Buzz the top of the snow was frozen quite hard,
so that they could walk over it quite easily, and after crossing a
big white field they arrived at the barn where Miss Patty Grey-Fur
lived.

“The next thing,” said Fuzz, “is to find the way into the barn.”

“You will be very clever if you do that,” said a poor little weak
voice beside them; and, looking down, they saw a tiny house-mouse
shivering in the snow. “I have been trying to find a way in all day,
but unless you go past Miss Patty Grey-Fur’s hole there is no other
way.”

“Show me where Miss Patty Grey-Fur’s hole is, then,” said Fuzz
boldly, “and I will knock at the door and tell her that we want to
come in.”

The little mouse opened his eyes wide at this, but he said nothing,
and led the way round to the back of the barn. Now this barn was
not, like most country barns, a tumble-down sort of place into which
a mouse might make his way by any number of holes. It was quite a
new barn, built of iron, and as Fuzz and Buzz followed the
house-mouse they could not see a single hole anywhere. When they had
walked nearly all round it, the house-mouse stopped beside a pipe
that led up from the floor of the barn to the roof. Now this pipe
did not go straight up in the way that pipes usually go, but it
leaned to one side, so that an active mouse could easily walk up it.

“You must go up this pipe,” said the house-mouse, “and when you get
to the top you must walk along the gutter until you see a tiny hole
in the roof, and then if you put your head inside it, you will see
Miss Patty Grey-Fur sitting there.”

So Fuzz and Buzz ran up the pipe and along the gutter as they had
been told, until they came to the little hole in the roof. But just
as Fuzz was going to put his head inside it, Miss Patty Grey-Fur
popped hers out so suddenly that Fuzz very nearly tumbled backwards
off the roof.

“What are you doing here?” she said in an angry squeak. “I have had
nothing but beggars at my door all day long, and I am quite tired of
telling them to go away.”

“We aren’t beggars, Aunt Patty,” said Fuzz bravely. She looked such
a very cross old mouse that he would have liked to run away. “We are
your nephew and niece, Fuzz and Buzz Brownie.”

[Illustration]

But if he thought that she would be pleased to see them, he was very
much mistaken.

“Oh, are you?” she said with a sort of sniff. “Well, then, the
sooner you go home again the better. This is not at all a safe place
for field-mice. There are dogs, and cats too, in the yard. Besides,
there are a great many children, and if they saw you they would be
sure to want to catch you and put you in a cage and keep you as a
pet. How would you like that?”

“We should not like it at all, Aunt Patty,” Fuzz said; “so if you
will let us come inside the barn we shall feel much safer. And then
tomorrow, when we have got enough corn, we will go home again.”

“I shall do nothing of the sort,” said Miss Patty Grey-Fur; and now
her long whiskers were quite stiff with rage. “How dare you want my
corn! There is not enough here to last me through the winter if I am
not very careful of it. And I cannot afford to give you one single
grain.”

Now, as Fuzz, who had been peeping in through the hole, could see
for himself, this was not true. The barn was full of corn from the
roof to the floor. Then quite suddenly Fuzz began to laugh, and he
laughed and laughed until the tears ran down his face.

“What are you laughing at?” said Miss Patty Grey-Fur. “You are a
very rude young mouse indeed.”

“I did not mean to be rude,” said Fuzz, “but I could not help
thinking, that if you did really eat all this corn you would be as
big as the barn by the time the spring came.” But before he had
finished speaking Miss Patty Grey-Fur pulled her head in with a
sudden jerk, and then shut the door in their faces.

And so Fuzz and Buzz were left standing outside in the gutter, and
they had to climb down the pipe again, and tell the little
house-mouse, who was waiting for them in the snow, that their aunt
would not let them in either.

The next thing to be done was to find a place in which to spend the
night, and the little house-mouse was just telling them that the
only place he knew of was a cold, draughty hole behind the
water-butt, when he suddenly stopped and pricked up his ears.

“We must hide,” he said, “somebody is coming. Let us get inside the
water-pipe.”

And just as they had all three safely hidden themselves inside the
end of the pipe that led up to Miss Patty Grey-Fur’s door, four or
five mice came round the corner of the barn and sat down in the snow
underneath the pipe.

“I hope the others wont be long,” said one of the mice, a big fat
fellow with a very long tail. “It’s cold work waiting here in the
snow.”

“Then why do they wait’?” whispered Buzz to the house-mouse. But he
frowned at her not to talk.

Then several frozen-looking sparrows flew over the barn and sat down
beside the mice, then came two pigeons, then some more mice, and
then two barn-door fowls.

“I think we are all here now,” said the big mouse who had spoken
before, “and you all know that we are here to talk about Miss Patty
Grey-Fur, and to make up our minds how we are to turn her out of the
barn.”

But when he had got as far as that, the other mice, and the sparrows
and the pigeons and the fowls, all began to talk at once, and it was
some time before Fuzz and Buzz and the house-mouse could hear what
any of them were saying. But there was no doubt that they were all
speaking of Miss Patty Grey-Fur, and calling her all sorts of names;
and soon Fuzz heard the sparrows say, that though they had gone to
her door and begged for a little corn because the snow had covered
up all their other food, she had not given them one single grain.
The pigeons had the same tale to tell of her, and so had everybody
who had come to the meeting.

“Well,” said the fat mouse, “listen to this plan of mine, and tell
me if you think that it is a good one. Miss Patty Grey-Fur loves
toasted cheese, and if nothing else will make her come out of her
barn a piece of toasted cheese will. I have got a bit that I took
out of a mouse-trap last night, and I will put it just outside her
door. She will smell it and come out, and then we will push her off
the roof. She will fall down to the ground, and then Rags the
terrier will soon snap her up. That will be the end of Miss Patty
Grey-Fur, and we shall have her barn all to ourselves.”

Now, though Miss Patty Grey-Fur had been as unkind to them as she
had been to everybody else, Fuzz and Buzz could not listen to this
plot against her without feeling very angry, and as soon as the
meeting was over, and the mice had gone back to their holes and the
birds had flown away, Fuzz said that they must go up and tell her of
the danger she was in. But they would have to be quick, for the big
mouse had said that they would be back with the toasted cheese in a
very few minutes.

SO they all three, for the house-mouse came too, ran up the inside
of the pipe and knocked at Miss Patty Grey-Fur’s door.

“Who’s there?” she said in a very cross voice.

“Fuzz and Buzz,” her nephew and niece said together.

“Oh, it’s you, is it?” she said. “Haven’t you gone home yet? Go
away. I am not going to give you any of my corn, so you need not
think that I am!”

But when Fuzz told her of the meeting that had just been held down
in the yard, she opened her door at once and let them all three in.
Her face was quite pale with fright.

“You may have as much corn as ever you like, all of you,” she said.
“You have saved my life. I am so fond of toasted cheese, that if I
had smelt it I am sure I should have darted outside, and then they
could easily have pushed me down from the roof. I wonder how any
mouse could think of being so unkind to another mouse!”

But none of Miss Patty Grey-Fur’s guests answered. For their three
mouths were so full of corn that they could not speak.

They all thought that the barn was quite one of the nicest places
they had ever seen in all their lives. It was filled with corn from
top to bottom, and there was enough in it, so at least Fuzz thought,
to feed hundreds of mice for hundreds of years. And the little thin
house-mouse ate more than either Fuzz or Buzz, for though they had
been hungry he had been almost starving.

By and by a knock came at the door, and a smell of toasted cheese
stole through the barn.

But though the mice outside, and the sparrows and the pigeons and
the two barn-door fowls, waited and waited, no Miss Patty Grey-Fur
came darting out to snatch the nice titbit. Her door remained firmly
closed, and by and by the birds flew away, and Miss Patty Grey-Fur
and her three guests curled themselves up in a warm corner and went
to sleep.

But though the birds had flown away and the two fowls had gone to
roost, the five mice who had climbed up on to the roof did not dare
to go down into the yard again. For the big mouse had told Rags,
that if he would wait at the bottom of the pipe he would throw down
fat Miss Patty Grey-Fur to him; and so Rags had left his warm
kennel, and had sat down in the snow beside the water-pipe, waiting
for Miss Patty Grey-Fur to fall down into his mouth.

When the time passed and she did not come he grew very angry, and as
in the bright moonlight he could see the five mice sitting up in the
gutter that ran round the roof, he made up his mind to wait until
they came down, and to eat them instead of Miss Patty Grey-Fur.

So, as the five mice could see him waiting down below, and could
guess very well why he was waiting, it was no wonder that they did
not dare to go down into the yard. And they passed a very cold and
very unhappy night in the gutter.

In the morning Rags called to his friend the cat, who had just come
out of the cottage, and showed her where the five mice were sitting
in a row. Puss said that while two or three of them would make a
very dainty breakfast for her she would throw the others down to
him. Then she began to climb up the water-pipe.

The five mice were very much frightened indeed, and they knocked at
Miss Patty Grey-Fur’s door and begged her to let them in before the
cat caught them.

Whether Miss Patty Grey-Fur would have forgiven them and let them in
will never be known, for she was sleeping so soundly that she did
not hear them tapping.

But Fuzz, who had been awake for some time, heard the noise they
were making outside, and he opened the door and let them in. And
just in time too, for as the tail of the fifth mouse whisked into
the hole the cat came round the corner.

She was very cross when she saw that neither she nor Rags was going
to have any of those five mice for breakfast.

As for the mice, they were trembling so much at the narrow escape
they had had, that it was some time before they could thank Fuzz and
Buzz for having let them in.

Then they all ran away from the door and right down into the middle
of the barn, for the cat had put her paw through the hole and was
trying to catch them. But when she found that her claws touched
nothing but the air, she climbed down from the roof and began to
scold Rags for having sent her on a wild-goose chase. Though why she
should call the five mice wild geese she did not even know herself.
While she was scolding Rags the five mice were eating a very nice
breakfast indeed, and their poor little half-frozen bodies were
gradually getting warm again in the snug, cosy barn.

Miss Patty Grey-Fur had quite forgiven them for the plot they had
hatched against her, and when she saw how hungry and how cold they
were, she became very sorry that she had not let them in before. She
saw now how greedy and selfish she had been, and she was very much
ashamed of herself. She made up her mind never again to be so
greedy, but to let every mouse in the yard come into the barn and
share the good corn in it.

But Fuzz and Buzz had not forgotten the poor half-frozen-looking
sparrows and pigeons who had been at the meeting the night before,
and they begged their aunt to allow them to put out some breakfast
for the birds too.

“Why, of course,” said Miss Patty Grey-Fur, who wanted now to be as
good and kind as she had before been bad and selfish. “I am sorry
that my front-door is too small for them to come inside, but we will
carry some corn out to the gutter.”

As there were altogether nine mice in the barn, and as they all
worked with a will, there was soon quite a little pile of corn in
the gutter. The birds were not very long in finding out the feast
that had been got ready for them, and they flew down on to the roof
and made a very good meal indeed.

“And now,” said Fuzz when all the birds had had as much as ever they
could eat, “we ought to be going home again.” But he looked with a
little shiver out on to the white world that lay round the barn.
“And we shall have to walk all the way, you know, Buzz,” he said,
“for the stream won’t take us back again, as it is going the wrong
way.”

“No, you shall not walk,” cooed a pretty gray pigeon, who was still
perched on the edge of the gutter. “I will carry you both as far as
the wood. So get as much corn as you can and we will start at once,
for I should like to be back before it gets dark.”

Then the gray pigeon flew down into the yard, and picked up in his
beak a paper bag which was lying in the snow. It had once held
sweets, but now it was empty, and had been thrown away by one of the
children.

“Look,” he said, “this will do to hold your corn. Now fill it as
full as you can.” So, helped by Miss Patty Grey-Fur and by the
house-mouse and by the five other mice, Fuzz and Buzz filled the bag
to the top, and then they dragged it out to the gutter, where the
pigeon was waiting for them with an end of tallow-candle in his
beak.

“You mice are fond of candles, aren’t you?” he said; “so you had
better take this too. I found it on a window-sill of the cottage.”

Now field-mice do not eat tallow-candles, at least not often, but
Fuzz remembered that the water-rat had said how fond he was of them,
so he opened the bag and popped the end in on the top of the corn.

“If we meet that nice water-rat again,” he said to Buzz, “we will
give it to him.”

Then as they were quite ready to set off on their journey home they
said good-bye to their aunt, and to all the other mice, and having
laid the bag of corn carefully on the back of the pigeon, they
climbed on to it themselves.

“Hold tight!” said the pigeon, and then he spread his wings and flew
up in the air. Sailing down the stream had been nice, but flying
through the air nestled among the soft warm feathers of a pigeon was
still nicer, and Fuzz and Buzz were quite sorry when they reached
the edge of the wood, and the pigeon dropped gently down until he
stood on the ground.

They were in the middle of thanking him for having carried them so
well and so safely, when their old friend the water-rat popped his
head out of his hole which was close by.

“Hullo!” he said. “Here you are again! I thought I knew your voices.
Well, did you get what you went for?”

“Yes, we did,” said Fuzz and Buzz, pointing to the bag full of corn
which lay beside them.

[Illustration]

“You surprise me,” said the rat. “One hears such tales of Miss Patty
Grey-Fur that I did not believe she would have given you anything.
Well, you can’t go any farther tonight, for it is getting dark, so
if you will spend the night with me I shall be very happy.”

“And I must be going,” said the pigeon. And though Fuzz and Buzz
begged him to eat some of their corn before he went, he would not
take a single grain, and after saying good-bye he spread his wings
and flew away back to the barn.

Then the rat took Fuzz and Buzz down to his hole, and his wife was
very kind to them. And when the two rats saw the piece of
tallow-candle which Fuzz and Buzz had brought for them, their sharp
black eyes shone with pleasure, and while Fuzz and Buzz ate a few
grains of corn for their supper, the two rats ate the tallow-candle,
and said that they had not enjoyed anything so much for a long time.

When they awoke in the morning they found that the stream was frozen
quite hard. The rat said he would get a big dock-leaf, and that they
should sit on it with their bag, while he would pull them over the
ice. It did not take the rat very long to find a big strong
dock-leaf, and a few minutes afterwards Fuzz and Buzz were sitting
on it, and were gliding over the firm ice even faster than they had
sailed down the stream two days before.

The rat was very strong, he never seemed to want to stop for breath,
but, with the stalk of the dock-leaf held firmly in his mouth, he
ran on and on the whole day long, until at last he reached the spot
near which the Brownie family lived.

There the rat said good-bye to them, and taking a little run to give
himself a good start, he put his feet together and slid away down
the stream at a rate which soon took him out of sight.

Then Fuzz and Buzz, dragging the heavy bag of corn after them, went
home as fast as they could.

Mr. and Mrs. Brownie were very glad to get their two children safely
back again. And when they saw what a lot of corn Fuzz and Buzz had
brought back with them, they knew that they now had more than enough
food to last them until the spring came.

And during the long winter evenings, when the wind was blowing and
the snow was falling, Fuzz and Buzz used to sit in their warm, cosy
nest, and talk about all they had seen and done when they went down
to the barn to fetch the corn.

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