The Rat, the Eggs, and the Cardigan

Down climbed the rat once more, down through the rickety old house to his old hole by the kitchen. In the kitchen was a fridge, and in the fridge there would surely be eggs. Surely. He put his nose out of the hole, sniffing the air. The fridge was in plain sight from his hole, and perhaps if he knocked on the door, it would open. But before he could try this bold plan, he smelt a terrifying smell. He darted back into his hole, just as a large furry paw swatted at his nose, and he saw a large yellow-green eye framed in the outline of his hole. The rat whirled round, and climbed as fast as he could, back towards the loft. His first idea had failed; the fridge was guarded by a ferocious cat.

The poor rat was so scared that he barely knew where he was going. Panting with exhaustion he stopped to rest by some pipes in a wall about half-way up the house. Gradually he calmed down, and the fear lessened. He was all right, and he could go back up to the egg in the loft. He crept along the wall, until the light became stronger, and he caught, out of the corner of his eye, the briefest flash of glitter. Like the egg. Like the glitter of the egg’s beautiful waistcoat. He crawled again towards the light, sniffing all the time for the smell of cat, but it seemed safe. He put his nose through a hole by a fireplace, and looked into a room. There was someone in the room, but it wasn’t a cat.

It was a little girl. She was rather a chubby little girl, with very big round dark eyes, and straight brown hair cut in an uneven fringe. She was holding something in her hands, passing it from one hand to the other and singing a strange babbling song, “And then the right, and then the left, and then he will and then he won’t…”

The rat looked more closely, unable to believe his luck. For the thing in the little girl’s hand looked like an egg. He shrank back into the shadows, watching the scene, and waited for something new to happen.

The sky grew darker and the sun set, and as it grew dark, something did happen. The little girl’s mother came into the room. The little girl turned round as she saw her, and gave a little cry of joy, and the egg she was holding fell from her hand, forgotten. The mother picked up the little girl, kissed her, and carried her out of the room, and the rat saw his chance.

Cautiously he crept out of the fireplace and across to the forgotten egg, his feet sinking as he went, like walking on moss. He crouched down and looked at the egg. It had a face set in a cheerful grin, a small hat, and a waistcoat. It wasn’t glittery, like the rat’s egg. It smelt peculiar, sweet, and slightly unpleasant, like too much pollen.

“Hello,” said the rat politely.

“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down,” sang the egg.

The rat was a little taken aback.

“I wonder whether you could help me,” he began again. “I have a friend…”

“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

“…and he lives in the loft…and he feels sad…”

“Weebles…”

The rat sat for a moment, puzzled. Would it be all right to take this new egg to the loft? And then he realised that there was a greater difficulty; he could not possibly carry the egg.

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