Crowded Out,

from the Chatterbox

A family of mice, consisting of father, mother, and three sons, living in a large log-house, near the shore of a great American river, went to sleep one night without a thought of what was going to happen before the morning. Angry words and bitter spirits, I am sorry to say, were uppermost with them. Jealousy, Covetousness, Spite: these three evil spirits stirred up the brothers, and the grey-whiskered parents, although they said little, remembered that they too had often, in bygone days, entertained the same three evil spirits, and thereby set a very poor example to their children.

So, jabbering, biting, clawing, they fell asleep this night—squeaking, scratching, and snarling forth their wicked feelings even in their dreams.

What an awakening was theirs! Four or five square inches of half-decayed flooring-board was their sole home. The keen air blew about them from all quarters: the morning sky hung dull grey above their heads, and surrounding them everywhere was the river—cold, rushing, and troubled.

Yes, the floods had come, and the log-home of the mice, like many another, was now a dismantled wreck—floating, a plank here, a log there; and upon their bit of soddened plank huddled the unfortunate family.

Where were now the three evil spirits? Not on the poor little raft: there was no room for them. Jealousy? why, there was not a pin to choose between the refugees, and they knew it: there was nothing to be jealous about. They had no room even for their tails, which, almost unheeded, were soaking in the water behind them, and getting nibbled now and then by the little fishes. No, there was no room for jealousy.

Covetousness, too, was crowded out. There was nothing to covet; they had divided that bit of boarding up so equally that if the father mouse had tried to take a survey of the other side of the river he must have upset his second son in turning about. All were cold, all were wet, all miserable, starving, and despairing! No room for Covetousness? I should say not. And the spirit of Spite, the ugliest, most hateful of them all, was banished with the rest. It was the only good this trial could do to these poor mice—to bring them face to face with their wicked feelings, and by their common sorrow teach them their need of and dependence on each other. There was no gleaming of little white teeth, no biting, no clawing, any longer!

So the day wore on, till evening, cold, grey, and dark, was spreading over the troubled waters. Fortunately, they were drifted by the flood very near the shore, where it jutted out into the river, and at last, very, very miserable, and weak, and hungry, one by one the five suffering but penitent mice sought and found a shelter for the night in a hollow tree, the bottom of which was full of dry leaves, and as warm as an oven.

"No room for Jealousy." "No room for Jealousy."

They found a delightful old farmhouse the next day, and, living in one of the sweet-scented hayricks for a time, until they could find out about the kitchen and the cook, this now happy and loving family learnt to think gratefully of that otherwise dreadful day when, adrift on the river floods, they had bidden good-bye for ever to Jealousy, Covetousness, and Spite.