Bless this Mouse

Bless this Mouse by Lois Lowry Read Free Book Online

Book: Bless this Mouse by Lois Lowry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lois Lowry
nighttime exodus, from the strangeness of the cemetery, and from the finding and building of nests. Outdoors was silent, except for birdsong and a breeze that rustled the leaves.
    Once, in the afternoon, they were all startled awake by a sound that was new to them and sounded dangerous. Young mouselets whimpered and clutched their mothers. Ears, whiskers, and tails stiffened, and mouse noses twitched in anxiety. But it was only a human child, whistling as he rode his bicycle through the cemetery, using the gravestones as a slalom course. After a moment they all relaxed and resumed their sleep.
    Hildegarde remained wakeful. She found that it was not at all pleasant, sharing a sleeping place with Roderick. He snored, and hogged the moss. Finally, restless, she crept out of the hidden nest and looked around a bit. The gravestones were old and weathered, covered with lichens; she tried nibbling one but it was slimy and tasteless. Maybe if she were
starving!
But there were yummy berries nearby, and wilted chrysanthemums on several graves. No shortage of food.

    As Hildegarde crouched there at the foot of the statue, blinking her unaccustomed eyes in the daylight of Outdoors, she became aware of the sound of a vehicle approaching the church. She peeked out between some tall ferns and saw the silver van with the ominous message on its side: PEST-B-GONE. She shuddered. It was terrible, being referred to as "pest"! But she knew that's what it meant: mice. Oh, all right, probably cockroaches and car penter ants—it meant those other things as well. They
were
pests. As were—ugh—
rats.
    But mice? Especially dear church mice, who knew the words to all the hymns and prayers? Who sang in their trusting, pious, squeaky little voices, with their eyes gazing heavenward and their tails reverently bowed? If Father Murphy only knew what treasures dwelt in his walls!

    The Great X stopped its van there, at the side door of the church, and she watched as Father Murphy welcomed a man in a blue jumpsuit and invited him inside.
    A rustle in the ferns startled Hildegarde, and she jumped slightly.
    "Just me," said Ignatious. "Couldn't sleep. Affliction of old age: insomnia." He stretched and yawned. "Of course, in humans it can be treated with benzodiazepines such as temazepam, flunitrazepam, triazolam, flurazepam, midazolam, nitrazepam, and quazepam—"
    "Oh, will you please
shut up!
" Hildegarde hissed at him.
    "Sorry to offend." Ignatious did look apologetic. "It's just that I spent a lot of time in the psychopharmacology section of the univers—"
    She glared at him and he fell silent.
    "Look!" she said, and pointed.
    Ignatious followed her pointing paw with his eyes and saw the van. "Uh-oh," he said. He squinted his aging eyes and read the title on its side. "
Pests,
" he said contemptuously. "Don't you hate that?"
    "Did they ever have a Great X at the university library?" Hildegarde asked.
    "Oh my, yes. Often. We lost huge numbers. Once, in the cafeteria, well..." He stopped talking and took a deep, mournful breath.
    Hildegarde patted his back. "It's all right. Don't talk about it. I've been through it. I know what it's like."

    They sat silently for a moment. Then she said to him, "I don't sup - pose they celebrated the Feast of Saint Francis at the university."

    Ignatious shook his head. "No. I've studied the saints, though. Actually, I know quite a bit about saints. Saint Ambrose, Saint Andrew, Saint Anthony—as you can see, I'm going alphabetically here—" Then he fell silent, seeing her face.
    "I'm a saint," he couldn't resist adding. "I mean, my name is. Saint Ignatious. If I'd gotten to the
Is
you would have—"
    "
Too much information,
" Hildegarde said curtly.
    He stopped talking and they stared at each other.
    "What do you know about cats? Have you studied cats?" Hildegarde asked him suddenly.
    Ignatious shuddered. "Oh, no. I've always avoided anything in that category. Makes me squeamish. Actually, I had a

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