CITY MOUSE: My ancestors were of the French aristocracy. Our name still appears on bottles of great French wine: ‘Mise du chateau,’ which means mice in the chateau, or castle mice.
NARRATOR: Everyday the newcomer bragged about his forebears, and when he ran out of ancestors he made some up.
CITY MOUSE: My great-great-grandfather was a theater mouse at the Comedie-Francaise, and he married a cathedral mouse, of the cathedral mice of Chartres. At their wedding a dessert named in their honor, mousse chocolat, was served to millions of guests.
NARRATOR: Then the city mouse told how his family had come to America in the bridal suite of a great French liner.
CITY MOUSE: My brother is a restaurant mouse at ’21,’ and my sister’s at the Metropolitan,
NARRATOR: He went on to tell of other ancestors of the family who had been in such productions as the Chauve Souris and Die Fliedermaus and Les Trois Mousquetaires.
CITY MOUSE: Not a mouse in our house was common house mouse.
NARRATOR: One day, wandering through forbidden walls of the country house, to show his inferiors that he knew his way around, he came upon a treasure in currency which someone had hidden years before between the plaster and the lath.
OLD COUNTRY MOUSE: I wouldn’t eat the stuff. It is the root of evil and it will give you greenback bellyache.
NARRATOR: But the city mouse did not listen.
CITY MOUSE: I’m already a mouse of distinction and this money will make me a millionaire. I’ll be loaded.
NARRATOR: So he began to eat the currency, which consisted of bills of large denominations, and he drove off one or two of the young country mice who wanted to help him eat the treasure, saying,
CITY MOUSE: Finders are not their brother’ keepers.
NARRATOR: The city mouse told his country cousins,
CITY MOUSE: Blessed are the rich, for they can pay their way into the kingdom of Heaven.
NARRATOR: And he got off a lot of other witticisms, such as “Legal tender is the night” and “Money makes the nightmare go.” And so he went on living, as he put it, on the fat of the lath.
CITY MOUSE: When I have eaten it all, I shall return to the city and live like a king. They say you can’t take it with you, but I’m going to take it with me.
NARRATOR: In a few days and nights, the arrogant city mouse with the fancy and fanciful French forebears had eaten all the money, which amounted to an ambassador’s annual salary. Then he tried to leave the walls of the old country house. But he was so loaded with money, and his head was so swelled, that he got caught between the plaster and the lath and could not get out, and his neighbors could not dislodge him, and so he died in the walls, and nobody but the country mice knew that the had been the richest mouse in the world.
OLD COUNTRY MOUSE: This is the posture of fortune’s slave: one foot in the gravy, one foot in the grave.
© Michelle Pitman 1998, all rights reserved
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