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Soup On A Sausage-Peg
by [?]


“That was a remarkably fine dinner yesterday,” observed an old Mouse of the female sex to another who had not been at the festive gathering. “I sat number twenty-one from the old mouse king, so that I was not badly placed. Should you like to hear the order of the banquet? The courses were very well arranged–mouldy bread, bacon-rind, tallow candle, and sausage–and then the same dishes over again from the beginning: it was just as good as having two banquets in succession. There was as much joviality and agreeable jesting as in the family circle. Nothing was left but the pegs at the ends of the sausages. And the discourse turned upon these; and at last the expression, ‘Soup on sausage-rinds,’ or, as they have the proverb in the neighbouring country, ‘Soup on a sausage-peg,’ was mentioned. Every one had heard the proverb, but no one had ever tasted the sausage-peg soup, much less prepared it. A capital toast was drunk to the inventor of the soup, and it was said he deserved to be a relieving officer. Was not that witty? And the old mouse king stood up, and promised that the young female mouse who could best prepare that soup should be his queen; and a year was allowed for the trial.”

“That was not at all bad,” said the other Mouse; “but how does one prepare this soup?”

“Ah, how is it prepared? That is just what all the young female mice, and the old ones too, are asking. They would all very much like to be queen; but they don’t want to take the trouble to go out into the world to learn how to prepare the soup, and that they would certainly have to do. But every one has not the gift of leaving the family circle and the chimney corner. In foreign parts one can’t get cheese-rinds and bacon every day. No, one must bear hunger, and perhaps be eaten up alive by a cat.”

Such were probably the considerations by which the majority were deterred from going out into the wide world and gaining information. Only four mice announced themselves ready to depart. They were young and brisk, but poor. Each of them wished to proceed to one of the four quarters of the globe, and then it would become manifest which of them was favoured by fortune. Every one took a sausage-peg, so as to keep in mind the object of the journey. The stiff sausage-peg was to be to them as a pilgrim’s staff.

It was at the beginning of May that they set out, and they did not return till the May of the following year; and then only three of them appeared. The fourth did not report herself, nor was there any intelligence of her, though the day of trial was close at hand.

“Yes, there’s always some drawback in even the pleasantest affair,” said the Mouse King.

And then he gave orders that all mice within a circuit of many miles should be invited. They were to assemble in the kitchen, where the three travelled mice would stand up in a row, while a sausage-peg, shrouded in crape, was set up as a memento of the fourth, who was missing. No one was to proclaim his opinion till the mouse king had settled what was to be said. And now let us hear.


What the first little Mouse had seen and learnt in her travels.

“When I went out into the wide world,” said the little Mouse, “I thought, as many think at my age, that I had already learnt everything; but that was not the case. Years must pass before one gets so far. I went to sea at once. I went in a ship that steered towards the north. They had told me that the ship’s cook must know how to manage things at sea; but it is easy enough to manage things when one has plenty of sides of bacon, and whole tubs of salt pork, and mouldy flour. One has delicate living on board; but one does not learn to prepare soup on a sausage-peg. We sailed along for many days and nights; the ship rocked fearfully, and we did not get off without a wetting. When we at last reached the port to which we were bound, I left the ship; and it was high up in the far north.