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Perez the mouse.

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The sloping roof joined the floor, so that on one side a man could not have stood upright, and through the holes the cold air of dawn was coming, while icicles hung from the roof. The only furniture besides the chair was an empty bread basket hanging up, and in a corner a bed of straw and rags, on which little Giles and his mother were lying fast asleep. Perez the Mouse drew nearer, taking the King by the paw, and they could see how little Giles was huddled up in the rags, and how he was cuddled up against his mother for warmth, and it made the King so unhappy that he began to cry. Why had he never known that people were so poor? How was it that he had never been told that children were hungry and had to sleep on horrid beds? He did not want any blankets on his cot till every child in his kingdom had plenty of bed-clothes to keep them warm.

Perez the Mouse brushed away a tear with his paw and then tried to comfort the King by showing him the bright gold coin he was going to put under little Giles' pillow in exchange for his first tooth. Just then Giles' mother woke and sat up in bed and looked at her little boy, who was still asleep. It was becoming light, and she had to earn some money by washing clothes in the river. * She caught the sleeping Giles in her arms and made him kneel down under a picture of the Infant Christ which was pinned to the wall near the bed. The King and Perez the Mouse knelt down too, and so did the soldier mice who were waiting in the empty bread basket. The child began to pray, 'Our Father which art in Heaven.'

Bubi started and looked at Perez the Mouse, who understood his astonishment, and fixed his piercing eyes on him, but never said a single word. On the return journey they were silent and preoccupied, and half an hour later the King was home in his nursery with Perez the Mouse, who again put the tip of his tail into Bubi's nose and made him sneeze. All at once he found himself safely back again in his own warm little cot, with the Queen's arms round him, who woke him, as she always did, with a kiss. At first he thought it had all been a dream; but when he looked for the letter he had put under his pillow, he found it was gone, and in its place was a case with the Order of the Golden Fleece in diamonds, a magnificent present from the generous Perez the Mouse in exchange for his first tooth. (Perhaps I had better explain to English children that in King Bubi's country the Order of the Golden Fleece is like our Order of the Garter, the greatest honour the King can give.)

The little King, however, paid no attention to his beautiful present, and let it lie unnoticed on the bed, while, leaning on his elbow, he lay very busy thinking. * Then, suddenly, he asked the Queen in a very solemn voice, 'Mama! Why do poor children say the same prayer as I do, "Our Father which art in Heaven"?' The Queen answered, 'Because He is as much their Father as He is yours.' Then said the King thoughtfully, 'We must be brothers.' 'Yes, my darling, they are your brothers,' answered the Queen. * Bubi's eyes were filled with astonishment, and, in a choky voice, he asked, 'Then why am I a King and have everything I want, while they are poor and have nothing?'


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