SOUP ON A SAUSAGE PEG 555
young mouse who could best prepare that soup should be his queen ; and a year was allowed for the trial.'
' That was not at all bad,' said the other Mouse ; s but how does one prepare this soup ? '
' Ah, how is it prepared ? That is just what all the young female mice, and the old ones too, are asking. They would all very much like to be queen ; but they don't want to take the trouble to go out into the world to learn how to prepare the soup, and that they would certainly have to do. But every one has not the gift of leaving the family circle and the chimney corner. Away from home one can't get cheese rinds and bacon every day. No, one must bear hunger, and perhaps be eaten up alive by a cat.'
Such were no doubt the thoughts by which most of them were scared from going out to gain information. Only four Mice announced themselves ready to depart. They were young and brisk, but poor. Each of them would go to one of the four quarters of the globe, and then it was a question which of them was favoured by fortune. Every one took a sausage-peg, so as to keep in mind the object of the journey. This was to be their pilgrim's staff.
It was at the beginning of May that they set out, and they did not return till the May of the following year ; and then only three of them appeared. The fourth did not report herself, nor was there any intelligence of her, though the day of trial was close at hand.
' Yes, there 's always some drawback in even the pleasantest affair,' said the Mouse King.
And then he gave orders that all mice within a circuit of many miles should be invited. They were to assemble in the kitchen, the three travelled Mice stood in a row by themselves, while a sausage-peg, shrouded in crape, was set up as a memento of the fourth, who was missing. No one was to proclaim his opinion before the three had spoken and the Mouse King had settled what was to be said further. And now let us hear.