Stuart little, p.1
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Stuart Little, p.1

           E. B. White
slower 1  faster
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Stuart Little


  Contents

  I. In the Drain

  II. Home Problems

  III. Washing Up

  IV. Exercise

  V. Rescued

  VI. A Fair Breeze

  VII. The Sailboat Race

  VIII. Margalo

  IX. A Narrow Escape

  X. Springtime

  XI. The Automobile

  XII. The Schoolroom

  XIII. Ames' Crossing

  XIV. An Evening on the River

  XV. Heading North

  Excerpt from Charlotte's Web

  Excerpt from The Trumpet of the Swan

  Back Ad

  About the Author and Artists

  Books by E. B. White

  Credits

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  I. In the Drain

  WHEN Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son arrived, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse. The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way He was only about two inches high; and he had a mouse's sharp nose, a mouse's tail, a mouse's whiskers, and the pleasant, shy manner of a mouse. Before he was many days old he was not only looking like a mouse but acting like one, too--wearing a gray hat and carrying a small cane. Mr. and Mrs. Little named him Stuart, and Mr. Little made him a tiny bed out of four clothespins and a cigarette box.

  Unlike most babies, Stuart could walk as soon as he was born. When he was a week old he could climb lamps by shinnying up the cord. Mrs. Little saw right away that the infant clothes she had provided were unsuitable, and she set to work and made him a fine little blue worsted suit with patch pockets in which he could keep his handkerchief, his money, and his keys. Every morning, before Stuart dressed, Mrs. Little went into his room and weighed him on a small scale which was really meant for weighing letters. At birth Stuart could have been sent by first class mail for three cents, but his parents preferred to keep him rather than send him away; and when, at the age of a month, he had gained only a third of an ounce, his mother was so worried she sent for the doctor.

  The doctor was delighted with Stuart and said that it was very unusual for an American family to have a mouse. He took Stuart's temperature and found that it was 98.6, which is normal for a mouse. He also examined Stuart's chest and heart and looked into his ears solemnly with a flashlight. (Not every doctor can look into a mouse's ear without laughing.) Everything seemed to be all right, and Mrs. Little was pleased to get such a good report.

  "Feed him up!" said the doctor cheerfully, as he left.

  The home of the Little family was a pleasant place near a park in New York City. In the mornings the sun streamed in through the east windows, and all the Littles were up early as a general rule. Stuart was a great help to his parents, and to his older brother George, because of his small size and because he could do things that a mouse can do and was agreeable about doing them. One day when Mrs. Little was washing out the bathtub after Mr. Little had taken a bath, she lost a ring off her finger and was horrified to discover that it had fallen down the drain.

  "What had I better do?" she cried, trying to keep the tears back.

  "If I were you," said George, "I should bend a hairpin in the shape of a fishhook and tie it onto a piece of string and try to fish the ring out with it." So Mrs. Little found a piece of string and a hairpin, and for about a half-hour she fished for the ring; but it was dark down the drain and the hook always seemed to catch on something before she could get it down to where the ring was.

  "What luck?" inquired Mr. Little, coming into the bathroom.

  "No luck at all," said Mrs. Little. "The ring is so far down I can't fish it up."

  "Why don't we send Stuart down after it?" suggested Mr. Little. "How about it, Stuart, would you like to try?"

  "Yes, I would," Stuart replied, "but I think I'd better get into my old pants. I imagine it's wet down there."

  "It's all of that," said George, who was a trifle annoyed that his hook idea hadn't worked. So Stuart slipped into his old pants and prepared to go down the drain after the ring. He decided to carry the string along with him, leaving one end in charge of his father. "When I jerk three times on the string, pull me up," he said. And while Mr. Little knelt in the tub, Stuart slid easily down the drain and was lost to view. In a minute or so, there came three quick jerks on the string, and Mr. Little carefully hauled it up. There, at the end, was Stuart, with the ring safely around his neck.

  "Oh, my brave little son," said Mrs. Little proudly, as she kissed Stuart and thanked him.

  "How was it down there?" asked Mr. Little, who was always curious to know about places he had never been to.

  "It was all right," said Stuart.

  But the truth was the drain had made him very slimy, and it was necessary for him to take a bath and sprinkle himself with a bit of his mother's violet water before he felt himself again. Everybody in the family thought he had been awfully good about the whole thing.

  II. Home Problems

  STUART was also helpful when it came to Ping-pong. The Littles liked Ping-pong, but the balls had a way of rolling under chairs, sofas, and radiators, and this meant that the players were forever stooping down and reaching under things. Stuart soon learned to chase balls, and it was a great sight to see him come out from under a hot radiator, pushing a Ping-pong ball with all his might, the perspiration rolling down his cheeks. The ball, of course, was almost as high as he was, and he had to throw his whole weight against it in order to keep it rolling.

  The Littles had a grand piano in their living room, which was all right except that one of the keys was a sticky key and didn't work properly. Mrs. Little said she thought it must be the damp weather, but I don't see how it could be the damp weather, for the key had been sticking for about four years, during which time there had been many bright clear days. But anyway, the key stuck, and was a great inconvenience to anyone trying to play the piano. It bothered George particularly when he was playing the "Scarf Dance," which was rather lively. It was George who had the idea of stationing Stuart inside the piano to push the key up the second it was played. This was no easy job for Stuart, as he had to crouch down between the felt hammers so that he wouldn't get hit on the head. But Stuart liked it just the same: it was exciting inside the piano, dodging about, and the noise was quite terrific. Sometimes after a long session he would emerge quite deaf, as though he had just stepped out of an airplane after a long journey; and it would be some little time before he really felt normal again.

  Mr. and Mrs. Little often discussed Stuart quietly between themselves when he wasn't around, for they had never quite recovered from the shock and surprise of having a mouse in the family. He was so very tiny and he presented so many problems to his parents. Mr. Little said that, for one thing, there must be no references to "mice" in their conversation. He made Mrs. Little tear from the nursery songbook the page about the "Three Blind Mice, See How They Run."

  "I don't want Stuart to get a lot of notions in his head," said Mr. Little. "I should feel badly to have my son grow up fearing that a farmer's wife was going to cut off his tail with a carving knife. It is such things that make children dream bad dreams when they go to bed at night."

  "Yes," replied Mrs. Little, "and I think we had better start thinking about the poem ''Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.' I think it might embarrass Stuart to hear mice mentioned in such a belittling manner."

  "That's right," said her husband, "but what shall we say when we come to that line in the poem? We'll have to say something. We can't just say ''Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house not a creature was stirring.' That doesn't sound complete; it needs a word to rhyme with house."

 
"What about louse?" asked Mrs. Little.

  "Or grouse," said Mr. Little.

  "I suggest souse," remarked George, who had been listening to the conversation from across the room.

  It was decided that louse was the best substitute for mouse, and so when Christmas came around Mrs. Little carefully rubbed out the word mouse from the poem and wrote in the word louse, and Stuart always thought that the poem went this way:

  'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house

  Not a creature was stirring, not even a louse.

  The thing that worried Mr. Little most was the mousehole in the pantry. This hole had been made by some mice in the days before the Littles came to live in the house, and nothing had been done about stopping it up. Mr. Little was not at all sure that he understood Stuart's real feeling about a mousehole. He didn't know where the hole led to, and it made him uneasy to think that Stuart might some day feel the desire to venture into it.

  "After all, he does look a good deal like a mouse," said Mr. Little to his wife. "And I've never seen a mouse yet that didn't like to go into a hole."

  III. Washing Up

  STUART was an early riser: he was almost always the first person up in the morning. He liked the feeling of being the first one stirring; he enjoyed the quiet rooms with the books standing still on the shelves, the pale light coming in through the windows, and the fresh smell of day. In wintertime it would be quite dark when he climbed from his bed made out of the cigarette box, and he sometimes shivered with cold as he stood in his nightgown doing his exercises. (Stuart touched his toes ten times every morning to keep himself in good condition. He had seen his brother George do it, and George had explained that it kept the stomach muscles firm and was a fine abdominal thing to do.)

  After exercising, Stuart would slip on his handsome wool wrapper, tie the cord tightly around his waist, and start for the bathroom, creeping silently through the long dark hall past his mother's and father's room, past the hall closet where the carpet sweeper was kept, past George's room and along by the head of the stairs till he got to the bathroom.

  Of course, the bathroom would be dark, too, but Stuart's father had thoughtfully tied a long string to the pull-chain of the light. The string reached clear to the floor. By grasping it as high up as he could and throwing his whole weight on it, Stuart was able to turn on the light. Swinging on the string this way, with his long bathrobe trailing around his ankles, he looked like a little old friar pulling the bellrope in an abbey.

  To get to the washbasin, Stuart had to climb a tiny rope ladder which his father had fixed for him. George had promised to build Stuart a small special washbasin only one inch high and with a little rubber tube through which water would flow; but George was always saying that he was going to build something and then forgetting about it. Stuart just went ahead and climbed the rope ladder to the family washbasin every morning to wash his face and hands and brush his teeth. Mrs. Little had provided him with a doll's size toothbrush, a doll's size cake of soap, a doll's size washcloth, and a doll's comb--which he used for combing his whiskers. He carried these things in his bathrobe pocket, and when he reached the top of the ladder he took them out, laid them neatly in a row, and set about the task of turning the water on. For such a small fellow, turning the water on was quite a problem. He had discussed it with his father one day after making several unsuccessful attempts.

  "I can get up onto the faucet all right," he explained, "but I can't seem to turn it on, because I have nothing to brace my feet against."

  "Yes, I know," his father replied, "that's the whole trouble."

  George, who always listened to conversations whenever he could, said that in his opinion they ought to construct a brace for Stuart; and with that he got out some boards, a saw, a hammer, a screw driver, a brad-awl, and some nails, and started to make a terrific fuss in the bathroom, building what he said was going to be a brace for Stuart. But he soon became interested in something else and disappeared, leaving the tools lying around all over the bathroom floor.

  Stuart, after examining this mess, turned to his father again. "Maybe I could pound the faucet with something and turn it on that way," he said.

  So Stuart's father provided him with a very small, light hammer made of wood; and Stuart found that by swinging it three times around his head and letting it come down with a crash against the handle of the faucet, he could start a thin stream of water flowing--enough to brush his teeth in, anyway, and moisten his washcloth. So every morning, after climbing to the basin, he would seize his hammer and pound the faucet, and the other members of the household, dozing in their beds, would hear the bright sharp plink plink plink of Stuart's hammer, like a faraway blacksmith, telling them that day had come and that Stuart was trying to brush his teeth.

  IV. Exercise

  ONE fine morning in the month of May Stuart was three years old, he arose early as was his custom, washed and dressed himself, took his hat and cane, and went downstairs into the living room to see what was doing. Nobody was around but Snowbell, the white cat belonging to Mrs. Little. Snowbell was another early riser, and this morning he was lying on the rug in the middle of the room, thinking about the days when he was just a kitten.

  "Good morning," said Stuart.

  "Hello," replied Snowbell, sharply. "You're up early, aren't you?"

  Stuart looked at his watch. "Yes," he said, "it's only five minutes past six, but I felt good and I thought I'd come down and get a little exercise."

  "I should think you'd get all the exercise you want up there in the bathroom, banging around, waking all the rest of us up trying to get that water started so you can brush your teeth. Your teeth aren't really big enough to brush anyway. Want to see a good set? Look at mine!" Snowbell opened his mouth and showed two rows of gleaming white teeth, sharp as needles.

  "Very nice," said Stuart. "But mine are all right, too, even though they're small. As for exercise, I take all I can get. I bet my stomach muscles are firmer than yours."

  "I bet they're not," said the cat.

  "I bet they are," said Stuart. "They're like iron bands."

  "I bet they're not," said the cat.

  Stuart glanced around the room to see what he could do to prove to Snowbell what good stomach muscles he had. He spied the drawn window shade on the east window, with its shade cord and ring, like a trapeze, and it gave him an idea. Climbing to the window sill he took off his hat and laid down his cane.

  "You can't do this," he said to the cat. And he ran and jumped onto the ring, the way acrobats do in a circus, meaning to pull himself up.

  A surprising thing happened. Stuart had taken such a hard jump that it started the shade: with a loud snap the shade flew up clear to the top of the window, dragging Stuart along with it and rolling him up inside, so that he couldn't budge.

  "Holy mackerel!" said Snowbell, who was almost as surprised as Stuart Little. "I guess that will teach him to show off his muscles."

  "Help! Let me out!" cried Stuart, who was frightened and bruised inside the rolled-up shade, and who could hardly breathe. But his voice was so weak that nobody heard. Snowbell just chuckled. He was not fond of Stuart and it didn't bother him at all that Stuart was all wrapped up in a window shade, crying and hurt and unable to get out. Instead of running upstairs and telling Mr. and Mrs. Little about the accident, Snowbell did a very curious thing. He glanced around to see if anybody was looking, then he leapt softly to the window sill, picked up Stuart's hat and cane in his mouth, carried them to the pantry and laid them down at the entrance to the mousehole.

  When Mrs. Little came down later and found them there, she gave a shrill scream which brought everybody on the run.

  "It's happened," she cried.

  "What has?" asked her husband.

  "Stuart's down the mousehole."

  V. Rescued

  GEORGE was in favor of ripping up the pantry floor. He ran and got his hammer, his screw driver, and an ice pick.

  "I'll have thi
s old floor up in double-quick time," he said, inserting his screw driver under the edge of the first board and giving a good vigorous pry.

  "We will not rip up this floor till we have had a good search," announced Mr. Little. "That's final, George! You can put that hammer away where you got it."

  "Oh, all right," said George. "I see that nobody in this house cares anything about Stuart but me."

  Mrs. Little began to cry. "My poor dear little son!" she said. "I know he'll get wedged somewhere."

  "Just because you can't travel comfortably in a mousehole doesn't mean that it isn't a perfectly suitable place for Stuart," said Mr. Little. "Just don't get yourself all worked up."

  "Maybe we ought to lower some food to him," suggested George. "That's what the State Police did when a man got stuck in a cave." George darted into the kitchen and came running back with a dish of applesauce. "We can pour some of this in, and it will run down to where he is." George spooned out a bit of the applesauce and started to poke it into the hole.

  "Stop that!" bellowed Mr. Little. "George, will you kindly let me handle this situation? Put that applesauce away immediately!"

  Mr. Little glared fiercely at George.

  "I was just trying to help my own brother," said George, shaking his head as he carried the sauce back to the kitchen.

  "Let's all call to Stuart," suggested Mrs. Little. "It is quite possible that the mousehole branches and twists about, and that he has lost his way."

  "Very well," said Mr. Little. "I will count three, then we will all call, then we will all keep perfectly quiet for three seconds, listening for the answer." He took out his watch.

  Mr. and Mrs. Little and George got down on their hands and knees and put their mouths as close as possible to the mousehole. Then they all called: "Stooooo-art!" And then they all kept perfectly still for three seconds.

  Stuart, from his cramped position inside the rolled-up shade, heard them yelling in the pantry and called back, "Here I am!" But he had such a weak voice and was so far inside the shade that the other members of the family did not hear his answering cry.

 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment