Page:The Yellow Book - 01.djvu/154

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Two Sketches

again so violently, desperately, consumedly. Anyhow, I went home terribly in love with Mercedes. And—do all children lack humour?—I picked out the prettiest young ladyish-looking mouse in my collection, cut off her moustaches, adopted her as my especial pet, and called her by the name of my dea certè.

All of my mice by this time had become quite tame. They had plenty to eat and drink, and a comfortable home, and not a care in the world; and familiarity with their master had bred assurance; and so they had become quite tame and shamefully, abominably lazy. Luxury, we are taught, was ever the mother of sloth. I could put my hand in amongst them, and not one would bestir himself the littlest bit to escape me. Mercedes and I were inseparable. I used to take her to school with me every day; she could be more conveniently and privately transported than a lamb. Each lycéen had a desk in front of his form, and she would spend the school-hours in mine, I leaving the lid raised a little, that she might have light and air. One day, the usher having left the room for a moment, I put her down on the floor, thereby creating a great excitement amongst my fellow-pupils, who got up from their places and formed an eager circle round her. Then suddenly the usher came back, and we all hurried to our seats, while he, catching sight of Mercedes, cried out, "A mouse! A white mouse! Who dares to bring a white mouse to the class?" And he made a dash for her. But she was too quick, too 'cute, "for the likes of" Monsieur le Pion. She gave a jump, and in the twinkling of an eye had disappeared up my leg, under my trousers. The usher searched high and low for her, but she prudently remained in her hiding-place; and thus her life was saved, for when he had abandoned his ineffectual chase, he announced, "I should have wrung her neck." I turned pale to imagine the doom she had escaped as by a hair's breadth. "It is useless to ask which