I. »Suppe paa en Pølsepind.«
»Det var en udmærket Middag igaar!« sagde en gammel Hun-Muus til Een, der ikke havde været med ved det Gilde. »Jeg sad Nummer een og tyve fra den gamle Musekonge; det er ikke saa ringe endda! Skal jeg nu sige Dem Anretningerne, de vare meget godt satte sammen! muggent Brød, Fleskesvær, Tællelys og Pølse, - og saa det samme forfra igjen; det var saagodtsom om vi fik to Maaltider. Der var en behagelig Stemning og gemytligt Vrøvl, som i en Familiekreds; ikke det Mindste blev der levnet uden Pølsepindene; dem talte vi saa om og da kom det for, at lave Suppe paa en Pølsepind; hørt herom havde jo Enhver, men Ingen havde smagt den Suppe, end sige forstod at lave den. Der blev udbragt en nydelig Skaal for Opfinderen, han fortjente at være Fattigforstander! var det ikke vittigt? Og den gamle Musekonge reiste sig op og lovede, at den af de unge Muus, der kunde lave meest velsmagende omtalte Suppe, skulde blive hans Dronning, Aar og Dag skulde de have Betænknings-Tid.«
»Det var ikke saa galt endda!« sagde den anden Muus; »men hvorledes laver man den Suppe?«
»Ja hvorledes laver man den! det spurgte de ogsaa om, alle Hun-Musene, de Unge og de Gamle. Alle vilde de gjerne være Dronning, men nødig vilde de have Uleiligheden med at gaae ud i den vide Verden for at lære det, og det blev nok nødvendigt! men det er da heller ikke givet Enhver at forlade Familie og de gamle Krinkelkroge; ude gaaer man ikke hver Dag paa Osteskorpe og lugter Fleskesvær, nei sulte kan man komme til, ja maaskee blive levende ædt af en Kat!«
Disse Tanker var det nok ogsaa, som skræmmede de Fleste fra at drage ud paa Kundskab; der fremstillede sig til Afreise kun fire Muus, unge og vævre, men fattige; de vilde gaae hver til et af Verdens fire Hjørner, saa kom det an paa hvem Lykken fulgte; hver af dem tog en Pølsepind med sig, for at huske hvad de reiste for; den skulde være deres Vandrestav.
Først i Maj drog de bort og først i Maj, Aaret efter, kom de tilbage, men kun de Tre, den Fjerde mældte sig ikke, lod ikke høre fra sig og nu var det Afgjørelsens Dag.
»»Der skal nu altid hænge noget Sørgeligt ved Eens bedste Fornøielse!«« sagde Musekongen, men gav Ordre til at indbyde alle Muus i mange Miles Omkreds; de skulde samles i Kjøkkenet; de tre Reise-Muus stode i Række og alene; for den Fjerde, som manglede, var stillet en Pølsepind med sort Flor om. Ingen turde sige sin Mening før de Tre havde talt og Musekongen havde sagt, hvad der videre skulde siges.
Nu faae vi at høre!«
Hvad den første lille Muus havde seet og lært paa Reisen.
»Da jeg drog ud i den vide Verden,« sagde den lille Muus, »troede jeg, som saa Mange i min Alder, at jeg havde slugt al Verdens Viisdom, men det har man ikke, der hører Aar og Dag dertil før det skeer. Jeg gik strax tilsøes; jeg gik med et Skib, som skulde Nord paa; jeg havde hørt, at paa Havet maatte Kokken forstaae at hjelpe sig, men det er let at hjelpe sig, naar man har fuldt op med Fleske-Sider, Saltmads-Tønder og oret Meel; man lever delikat! men man lærer ikke Noget, der kan bringe Suppe af en Pølsepind. Vi seilede mange Nætter og Dage, vi havde det med Slingren og med Vaadt. Da vi saa kom hvorhen vi skulde, saa forlod jeg Fartøiet; det var høit oppe i Norden.
Det er underligt at komme hjemme fra sin egen Krinkelkrog, gaae med Skib, der ogsaa er en Slags Krinkelkrog, og saa pludselig være over hundrede Mile borte og staae i et fremmedt Land. Der var vildsomme Skove med Gran og Birk, de duftede saa stærkt; jeg holder ikke af det! de vilde Urter lugtede saa krydrede, jeg nøs, jeg tænkte paa Pølse. Der var store Skovsøer, Vandet saae klart ud nær ved, men seet i Afstand, sort som Blæk, der flød hvide Svaner, jeg antog dem for Skum, saa stille laae de, men jeg saae dem flyve og jeg saae dem gaae, saa kjendte jeg dem; de høre til Gaasens Slægt, seer man nok paa Gangen, Ingen kan fornægte sit Familieskab! jeg holdt mig til min Slags, jeg sluttede mig til Skov- og Markmusene, der iøvrigt veed grumme lidt, især hvad Tractement angaaer, og det var jo det, at jeg reiste udenlands for. At det kunde tænkes at lave Suppe paa en Pølsepind var dem en saa overordentlig Tanke, at den gik strax gjennem hele Skoven, men at den Opgave kunde løses, henregnede de til Umuelighed, mindst tænkte jeg da, at jeg her, og det endnu den samme Nat, skulde blive indviet i Lavningen. Det var Midsommer, derfor duftede Skoven saa stærkt, sagde de, derfor vare Urterne saa krydrede, Søerne saa klare og dog saa mørke med de hvide Svaner paa. I Skovkanten, mellem tre fire Huse var reist en Stang høi som en Stormast, og øverst paa den hang Krandse og Baand, det var Maistangen; Piger og Karle dandsede rundt om den og sang dertil omkap med Spillemandens Violin. Det gik lystigt til ved Solnedgang og i Maaneskin, men jeg tog ikke med, hvad skal en lille Muus paa Skovbal! jeg sad i det bløde Mos, og holdt paa min Pølsepind. Maanen skinnede især paa een Plet, hvor der var et Træ med et Mos, saa fiint, ja, jeg tør sige saa fiint, som Musekongens Skind, men det havde en grøn Farve, saa at det var en Velgjerning for Øinene. Da kom der lige med Eet opmarscherende de yndigste smaa Personer, ikke større end at de kunde naae mig til Knæet, de saae ud som Mennesker, men de vare bedre proportionerede, de kaldte sig Alfer og havde fine Klæder af Blomsterblade med Flue- og Mygge-Vinge-Besætning, slet ikke galt. Det var strax som om de søgte efter Noget, jeg vidste ikke hvad, men saa kom der et Par Stykker hen til mig, den Fornemste af dem pegede paa min Pølsepind og sagde: »det er netop saadan een vi bruge! den er tilskaaret, den er udmærket!« og han blev meer og meer henrykt, idet han saae paa min Vandrestav.
»Nok laane, men ikke beholde!« sagde jeg.
»Ikke beholde!« sagde de Allesammen, toge om Pølsepinden, som jeg slap og de dandsede med den hen til den fine Mosplet, reiste Pølsepinden der, midt i det Grønne. De vilde ogsaa have en Maistang og den de nu havde var jo ogsaa for dem, som skaaret dertil. Nu blev den pyntet; ja da fik den Syn!
Smaa Edderkopper spandt Guldtraad om den, ophængte vaiende Slør og Paner, saa fine vævede, saa sneehvide blegede i Maaneskin, at det skar mig i mine Øine; de tog Farver af Sommerfuglens Vinger og dryssede paa de hvide Lin og der skinnede Blomster og Diamanter, jeg kjendte ikke igjen meer min Pølsepind; saadan en Maistang, som den var blevet, fandtes der vist ikke Mage til i Verden. Og nu først kom det rigtige store Alfe-Selskab, det var ganske uden Klæder, finere kunde det ikke være, og jeg blev indbudt til at see paa Stadsen, men i Afstand, for jeg var dem for stor.
Nu begyndte der et Spil! det var som om tusinde Glasklokker klang, saa fuldt og stærkt, jeg troede, det var Svanerne der sang, ja jeg syntes, at jeg ogsaa kunde høre Gjøg og Drossel, det var tilsidst som om hele Skoven klang med, der var Børnestemmer, Klokkeklang og Fuglesang, de yndigste Melodier, og al den Deilighed klang ud fra Alfernes Maistang, den var et heelt Klokkespil og det var min Pølsepind. Saameget havde jeg aldrig troet, at der kunde komme ud af den, men det kommer nok an paa hvilke Hænder den kommer i. Jeg blev virkelig saa bevæget; jeg græd, som en lille Muus kan græde, af bare Fornøielse.
Natten var altfor kort! men den er nu ikke længere paa den Tid deroppe. I Dagningen kom der en Luftning, Vandspeilet paa Skovsøen krusedes, alle de fine svævende Slør og Faner fløi hen i Luften; de gyngende Kjosker af Spindelvæv, Hængebroer og Balustrader, hvad de nu hedde, der var reist fra Blad til Blad, fløi som Ingenting; sex Alfer kom og bragte mig min Pølsepind, idet de spurgte om jeg havde noget Ønske, de kunde opfylde; da bad jeg dem sige mig, hvorledes man laver Suppe paa en Pølsepind.
»Hvorledes vi bære os ad!« sagde den Fornemste og loe, »ja det har Du da nyligt seet! Du kjendte vel knap igjen din Pølsepind!«
»De mene paa den Maade!« sagde jeg, og fortalte ligefrem hvorfor jeg var paa Reise, og hvad man hjemme ventede sig af denne. »Hvad Gavn,« spurgte jeg, »har Musekongen og hele vort mægtige Rige af, at jeg har seet denne Deilighed! jeg kan ikke ryste den ud af Pølsepinden og sige: see her er Pinden, nu kommer Suppen! det var jo altid dog en Slags Anretning, naar man var mæt!«
Da dyppede Alfen sin lille Finger ned i en blaa Viol, og sagde til mig: »pas paa! jeg bestryger din Vandrestav og naar Du saa kommer hjem til Musekongens Slot, rør da med Staven ved din Konges varme Bryst, saa springer der Violer ud om den hele Stav og det selv i den koldeste Vintertid. See der har Du da Noget hjem og endnu lidt till«« men før den lille Muus sagde hvad dette lidt var, vendte hun sin Stav mod Kongens Bryst, og virkeligt, der sprang frem den deiligste Bouqvet Violer, der duftede saa stærkt, at Musekongen befalede, at de Muus, som stode nærmest Skorstenen, strax skulde stikke deres Haler ind i Ilden, at man kunde faae lidt sveden Lugt, for den Violduft var ikke til at holde ud, det var ikke den Slags, man holdt af.
»Men hvad var det lidt til, Du talte om!« spurgte Musekongen.
»Ja,« sagde den lille Muus, »det er det, som man nok kalder Effecten!« og saa vendte hun Pølsepinden, og da var der ingen Blomster meer, hun holdt kun den nøgne Pind og den løftede hun ligesom en Taktstok.
»»Violer er for Synet, Lugten og Følelsen,« sagde Alfen mig, »men der er endnu tilbage for Hørelsen og Smagen!«« Og saa slog hun Takt; det var Musik, ikke som den klang i Skoven ved Alfernes Fest, nei som den kan høres i Kjøkkenet. Naa, det var en Laven! Det kom med Eet, ligesom om Vinden susede gjennem alle Skorsteens-Rør, Kedler og Potter kogte over, Ildskuffen dundrede paa Messingkedlen, og saa, lige med Eet blev det stille; man hørte Theekedlens dæmpede Sang, saa underlig, man forstod slet ikke om den holdt op eller begyndte; og den lille Potte kogte og den store Potte kogte, den ene brød sig ikke om den anden, det var, som om der ikke var Tanke i Potten. Og den lille Muus svingede sin Taktstok vildere og vildere, - Potterne skummede, boblede, kogte over, Vinden susede, Skorstenen peeb - hu ha! det blev saa forfærdeligt at den lille Muus selv tabte Stokken.
»Det var en svær Suppe!« sagde den gamle Musekonge, »kommer nu ikke Anretningen?«
»Det var det Hele!« sagde den lille Muus og neiede.
»Det Hele! ja lad os saa høre hvad den Næste har at sige!« sagde Musekongen.
Hvad den anden lille Muus vidste at fortælle.
»Jeg er født i Slots-Bibliotheket,« sagde den anden Muus, »jeg og flere af min Familie der har aldrig kjendt den Lykke at komme i Spisestuen, end sige i Spisekammeret; først da jeg reiste og nu i Dag her, saae jeg et Kjøkken. Vi lede virkeligt tidt Sult paa Bibliotheket, men vi fik mange Kundskaber. Derop naaede til os Rygtet om den kongelige Priis, der var udsat for at lave Suppe paa en Pølsepind, og da var det min gamle Bedstemoder, der trak frem et Manuskript, hun kunde ikke læse det, men hun havde hørt det læse, deri stod: »»er man en Digter, saa kan man koge Suppe paa en Pølsepind.«« Hun spurgte mig, om jeg var en Digter. Jeg vidste mig fri, og hun sagde, at saa maatte jeg gaae og see til at blive det; men hvad udfordres dertil, spurgte jeg, for det var mig ligesaa vanskeligt at udfinde, som at lave Suppen; men Bedstemoder havde hørt Læsning; hun sagde, at der vare tre Hoveddele nødvendige: »»Forstand, Phantasie og Følelse! kan Du gaae og faae dem ind i Dig, saa er Du Digter, og saa kommer Du nok ud af det med Pølsepinden.««
Og saa gik jeg vesterpaa ud i den vide Verden for at blive Digter.
Forstand vidste jeg er i enhver Ting det Vigtigste, de to andre Dele have ikke den Agtelse! saa gik jeg altsaa først ud efter Forstanden; ja, hvor boer den? Gak til Myren og bliv viis! har en stor Konge i Jødeland sagt, det vidste jeg fra Bibliotheket, og jeg standsede ikke, før jeg kom til den første store Myretue, der lagde jeg mig paa Luur for at blive viis.
Det er et meget respectabelt Folkefærd Myrerne, de ere bare Forstand, Alt hos dem er som et rigtigtgjort Regnestykke, det gaaer op. At arbeide og at lægge Æg, sige de, er at leve i Tiden og sørge for Eftertiden og det gjør de da. De dele sig i de rene Myrer og i de skidne; Rangen bestaaer i et Nummer, Myredronningen er Nummer eet og hendes Mening er den eneste rigtige, hun har slugt al Viisdom, og det var af Vigtighed for mig at vide! Hun sagde saa Meget, det var saa klogt, at jeg syntes det var dumt. Hun sagde, at deres Tue var det Høieste i denne Verden, men tæt ved Tuen stod et Træ, det var høiere, meget høiere, det kunde ikke benægtes og saa talte man ikke derom; en Aften havde en Myre forvildet sig derhen, krøbet op ad Stammen, ikke til Kronen en Gang, men dog høiere, end nogen Myre før var kommen, og da den vendte om og fandt hjem, fortalte den i Tuen, om Noget langt høiere udenfor, men det havde alle Myrerne fundet fornærmeligt mod hele Samfundet og saa blev Myren dømt til Mundkurv og vedvarende Eensomhed; men kort Tid efter kom en anden Myre til Træet og gjorde samme Reise og Opdagelse, og den talte derom, som man sagde, med Besindighed og Utydelighed og da den dertil var en agtet Myre, een af de rene, saa troede man den, og da den døde, satte de en Æggeskal for den, som Monument, for de agtede Videnskaber. Jeg saae,« sagde den lille Muus, »at Myrerne ideligt løb med deres Æg paa Byggen; Een af dem tabte sit, hun havde stor Anstrængelse med at faae det op igjen, men det vilde ikke lykkes, da kom der to andre og hjalp til af alle Kræfter, saa at de nær havde tabt deres egne Æg, men saa lode de øieblikkelig igjen være, for man er sig selv nærmest; og Myredronningen sagde derom, at her var viist Hjerte og Forstand. »»De To stille os Myrer øverst blandt Fornuftvæsnerne. Forstanden maa og bør være den overveiende og jeg har den største!«« og saa reiste hun sig paa de bageste Been, hun var saa kjendelig, - jeg kunde ikke tage Feil; og jeg slugte hende. Gak til Myren og bliv viis! nu havde jeg Dronningen!
Jeg gik nu nærmere hen til det omtalte store Træ, det var en Eeg, den havde høi Stamme, mægtig Krone og var meget gammel; jeg vidste, at her boede en levende Skabning, en Qvinde, Dryade kaldes hun, fødes med Træet og døer med det; jeg havde hørt derom paa Bibliotheket; nu saae jeg saadant et Træ, saae saadan en Egepige; hun gav et forfærdeligt Skrig, da hun saae mig saa nær; hun var som alle Fruentimmer meget angest for Muus, men hun havde da ogsaa mere Aarsag, end de Andre, for jeg kunde gnave Træet over og ved det hang jo hendes Liv. Jeg talte til hende venligt og inderligt, gav hende Mod, og hun tog mig paa sin fine Haand og da hun fik at vide, hvorfor jeg var gaaet ud i den vide Verden, lovede hun, at jeg skulde maaskee allerede samme Aften erholde een af de to Skatte, jeg endnu søgte om. Hun fortalte mig, at Phantasus var hendes meget gode Ven, at han var saa deilig som Kjærligheds-Guden, og at han mangen Stund her tog Hvile under Træets løvfulde Grene, der da susede endnu stærkere hen over dem begge To, han kaldte hende sin Dryade, sagde hun, Træet sit Træ, den knudrede, mægtige skjønne Eeg var just efter hans Sind, Rødderne bredte sig dybt og fast ned i Jorden, Stammen og Kronen løftede sig høit i den friske Luft og kjendte den fygende Snee, de skarpe Vinde og det varme Solskin, som det skal kjendes. Ja saadan talte hun, »»Fuglene synge deroppe og fortælle om de fremmede Lande! og paa den eneste udgaaede Green har Storken bygget Rede, det pynter godt og man faaer lidt at høre fra Pyramidernes Land. Alt det kan Phantasus godt lide, det er ham ikke engang nok, jeg selv maa fortælle for ham om Livet i Skoven fra jeg var lille og Træet var spæd, saa at en Nelde kunde skjule det, og indtil nu, det er blevet saa stort og mægtigt. Sid Du nu henne under Skovmærkerne og pas vel paa, jeg skal naar Phantasus kommer, nok finde Leilighed til at knibe ham i Vingen, og ruske en lille Fjer af, tag den, en bedre fik ingen Digter; - saa har Du nok!««
Og Phantasus kom, Fjeren blev reven af og jeg greb den,« sagde den lille Muus, »jeg holdt den i Vand til den blev blød! - den var endnu saa svær at fordøie, men jeg fik den gnavet op! Det er slet ikke let at gnave sig til Digter, der er saa Meget man maa tage i sig. Nu havde jeg da de to, Forstand og Phantasie, og ved dem vidste jeg nu, den tredie Ting var at finde paa Bibliotheket, idet en stor Mand har sagt og skrevet, at der gives Romaner, som alene ere til for at befrie Menneskene fra de overflødige Taarer, altsaa ere en Slags Svamp til at optage Følelser i. Jeg huskede paa et Par af disse Bøger, de havde altid seet mig ganske appetitelige ud, de vare saa læste, saa fedtede, de maatte have optaget i sig et uendeligt Væld.
Jeg gik hjem i Bibliotheket, aad strax saa godt som en heel Roman, det vil sige det Bløde, det Egentlige, derimod Skorpen, Bindet lod jeg ligge. Da jeg nu havde fordøiet den og een til, fornam jeg allerede hvorledes det rørte sig indeni mig, jeg aad lidt af den Tredie, og saa var jeg Digter, det sagde jeg mig selv og det sagde jeg de Andre med! jeg havde Hovedpine, Indvoldspine, jeg veed ikke alle de Piner, jeg havde, jeg tænkte nu over, hvilke Historier der maatte kunne sættes i Forbindelse med en Pølsepind, og saa fik jeg saa mange Pinde i min Tanke, Myredronningen har havt en ualmindelig Forstand, jeg huskede paa Manden, der tog en hvid Pind i Munden og saa var baade han og Pinden usynlig; jeg tænkte paa gammelt Øl med en Pind i, staae paa Pinde, at sætte en Pind for og saa Pinden til Eens Liigkiste. Alle mine Tanker gik op i Pinde! og om dem maatte der kunne digtes naar man er en Digter, og det er jeg, det har jeg slidt mig til! Jeg vil saaledes hver Dag i Ugen kunde opvarte dem med en Pind, en Historie, - ja det er min Suppe!«
»Lad os saa høre den Tredie!« sagde Musekongen.
»Pi! pi!« sagde det i Kjøkkendøren og en lille Muus, det var den Fjerde af dem, den, de troede død, pilede ind, den løb Pølsepinden med det sorte Flor paa overende, den havde løbet Nat og Dag, den var gaaet paa Jernbane med Godstog, som den fandt Leilighed til, og dog var den næsten kommet for silde; den trængte sig frem, saae forpjusket ud, havde tabt sin Pølsepind men ikke Mælet, den talte ligestrax, ligesom om man kun ventede paa den, kun vilde høre paa den, alt Andet i Verden kom ikke Verden ved; den talte strax, talte sig ud; den kom saa uventet, at Ingen fik Tid til at opholde sig over den og over dens Tale, medens den talte. Nu skal vi høre!
Hvad den fjerde Muus, som talte før den tredie havde talt, vidste at fortælle.
»Jeg gik strax til den største Stad,« sagde den, »Navnet husker jeg ikke, jeg husker ikke godt Navne. Jeg kom fra Jernbanen med confiskeret Gods paa Raadstuen og der løb jeg til Slutteren; han talte om sine Fanger, især om Een, der havde talt ubesindige Ord, og om dem var igjen blevet talt, og talt, læst og paaskrevet; »»det Hele er Suppe paa en Pølsepind!«« sagde han, »»men den Suppe kan koste ham hans Knap!«« det gav mig Interesse for den Fangne,« sagde den lille Muus, »og jeg tog Leiligheden iagt og slap ind til ham; der er altid bag laasede Døre et Musehul! Han saae bleg ud, havde et stort Skjæg og store skinnende Øine. Lampen osede og Væggene vare vante dertil, de bleve ikke sortere. Fangen ridsede baade Billeder og Vers, med Hvidt paa Sort, jeg læste dem ikke. Jeg troer han kjedede sig; jeg var en velkommen Gjest. Han lokkede mig med Brødsmuler, med Fløiten og milde Ord; han var saa glad ved mig; jeg fik Tillid til ham og saa bleve vi Venner. Han deelte med mig Brød og Vand, gav mig Ost og Pølse; jeg levede flot; men det var dog især den gode Omgang, maa jeg sige, som holdt mig. Han lod mig løbe paa sin Haand og Arm, heelt op i Ærmet; han lod mig krybe i sit Skjæg, kaldte mig sin lille Ven; jeg fik ham ordentlig kjær; saadant Noget er nok gjensidigt! Jeg glemte mit Ærinde ude i den vide Verden, glemte min Pølsepind i en Sprække af Gulvet; der ligger den endnu. Jeg vilde blive hvor jeg var; gik jeg bort, da havde jo den stakkels Fange slet Ingen, og det er for lidt i denne Verden! Jeg blev, han blev ikke! han talte til mig saa sørgeligt den sidste Gang, gav mig dobbelt saa meget Brød og Osteskorpe, kyssede saa paa sine Fingre ad mig; han gik og kom aldrig mere. Jeg kjender ikke hans Historie. »»Suppe paa en Pølsepind!«« sagde Slutteren og til ham gik jeg, men ham skulde jeg ikke have troet; han tog mig vel paa sin Haand, men han satte mig i Buur, i Trædemølle; det er voldsomt! man løber og løber, ligelangt kommer man og er kun til Griin!
Slutterens Barnebarn var en yndig lille Een, med guldgule krøllede Haar, Øine saa glade og en Mund der loe. »»Stakkels lille Muus!«« sagde hun, kigede ind i mit fæle Buur, trak Jernpinden fra - og jeg sprang ned i Vindueskarmen og ud i Tagrenden. Fri, fri! det alene tænkte jeg paa og ikke Reisens Maal!
Det var mørkt, det var mod Nattetider, jeg tog Herberg i et gammelt Taarn, der boede en Vægter og en Ugle; jeg troede ingen af dem, mindst Uglen; den ligner en Kat og har den store Feil, at den æder Muus; men man kan tage Feil, og det gjorde jeg; det var en respectabel, overmaade dannet, gammel Ugle, hun vidste mere end Vægteren og ligesaa meget som jeg; Ugleungerne gjorde Ophævelser over enhver Ting; »»lav ikke Suppe paa en Pølsepind!«« sagde hun, det var det allerhaardeste hun kunde sige her, hun havde saa megen Inderlighed for sin egen Familie. Jeg fik saadan en Tillid til hende, at jeg sagde Pip fra Sprækken, hvor jeg sad; den Tiltro syntes hun godt om og forsikkrede mig, at jeg skulde være i hendes Beskyttelse; intet Dyr skulde faae Lov at gjøre mig Fortræd, det vilde hun selv gjøre til Vinter, naar der blev Trang paa Kosten.
Hun var klog i Eet og Alt; hun beviiste mig, at Vægteren ikke kunde tude uden i et Horn, som hang løst ved ham; »»han bilder sig forfærdeligt ind deraf, troer han er Ugle i Taarnet! stort skal det være, men lidt er det! Suppe paa en Pølsepind!«« Jeg bad hende om at faae Opskriften, og saa forklarede hun mig det: »»Suppe paa en Pølsepind er kun en menneskelig Talemaade og forstaaes paa forskjellig Maade, og hver troer sin er den rigtigste; men det Hele er egentligt ikke Noget!««
»»Ikke Noget!«« sagde jeg. Det slog mig! Sandheden er ikke altid behagelig, men Sandheden er det Høieste! det sagde ogsaa den gamle Ugle. Jeg tænkte derover og indsaae, at naar jeg bragte det Høieste, saa bragte jeg meget mere end Suppe paa en Pølsepind. Og saa skyndte jeg mig afsted, for at komme endnu i rette Tid hjem og bringe det Høieste og Bedste: Sandheden. Musene ere et oplyst Folkefærd og Musekongen er over dem Allesammen. Han er istand til at gjøre mig til Dronning for Sandhedens Skyld.«
»Din Sandhed er Løgn!« sagde den Muus, som endnu ikke havde faaet Lov at tale. »Jeg kan lave Suppen og det skal jeg!«
Hvorledes den blev lavet.
»Jeg har ikke reist,« sagde den fjerde Muus, »jeg blev i Landet, det er det Rigtige! man behøver ikke at reise, man kan faae Alt ligesaa godt her. Jeg blev! jeg har ikke lært mit af overnaturlige Væsner, ikke ædt mig det til eller talt med Ugler. Jeg har mit ved Selvtænkning. Vil De nu bare faae Kedlen sat paa, fyldt Vand i, heelt op! gjør Ild under! lad det brænde, faae Vandet i Kog, det maa skrupkoge! kast nu Pinden i! Vil derpaa Musekongen behage at stikke Halen ned i det Skrupkogende og røre om! jo længer han rører, desto kraftigere bliver Suppen; det koster ikke Noget! der behøves ingen Tilsætninger, - kun røre om!«
»Kan en Anden ikke gjøre det?« spurgte Musekongen.
»Nei,« sagde Musen, »den Kraft er kun i Musekongens Hale!«
Og Vandet skrupkogte, og Musekongen stillede sig tæt ved, det var næsten farligt, og han stak Halen ud, saaledes som Musene gjøre i Melkestuen, naar de skumme Fløden af et Fad og derpaa slikke Halen, men han fik sin kun ind i den varme Damp, saa sprang han strax ned: »Naturligviis, Du er min Dronning!« sagde han, »Suppen ville vi vente med til vort Guldbryllup, saa har de Fattige i mit Rige Noget at glæde sig til og en lang Glæde!«
Og saa holdt de Bryllup; men flere af Musene, da de kom hjem, sagde: »man kunde da ikke kalde det Suppe paa en Pølsepind, det var snarere Suppe paa en Musehale!« - Eet og Andet af hvad der blev fortalt, fandt de, var ganske godt givet, men det Hele kunde være anderledes! »jeg vilde nu have fortalt saaledes og saaledes - -!«
Det var Kritiken, og den er altid saa klog - bag efter.
Og den Historie gik Verden rundt, Meningerne om den vare deelte, men Historien selv blev heel; og det er det Rigtigste i Stort og Smaat, i Suppe paa en Pølsepind; man maa bare ikke vente Tak for den!
"We had such an excellent dinner yesterday," said an old mouse of the female sex to another who had not been present at the feast. "I sat number twenty-one below the mouse-king, which was not a bad place. Shall I tell you what we had? Everything was first rate. Mouldy bread, tallow candle, and sausage. And then, when we had finished that course, the same came on all over again; it was as good as two feasts. We were very sociable, and there was as much joking and fun as if we had been all of one family circle. Nothing was left but the sausage skewers, and this formed a subject of conversation, till at last it turned to the proverb, 'Soup from sausage skins;' or, as the people in the neighboring country call it, 'Soup from a sausage skewer.' Every one had heard the proverb, but no one had ever tasted the soup, much less prepared it. A capital toast was drunk to the inventor of the soup, and some one said he ought to be made a relieving officer to the poor. Was not that witty? Then the old mouse-king rose and promised that the young lady-mouse who should learn how best to prepare this much-admired and savory soup should be his queen, and a year and a day should be allowed for the purpose."
"That was not at all a bad proposal," said the other mouse; "but how is the soup made?"
"Ah, that is more than I can tell you. All the young lady mice were asking the same question. They wished very much to be queen, but they did not want to take the trouble of going out into the world to learn how to make soup, which was absolutely necessary to be done first. But it is not every one who would care to leave her family, or her happy corner by the fire-side at home, even to be made queen. It is not always easy to find bacon and cheese-rind in foreign lands every day, and it is not pleasant to have to endure hunger, and be perhaps, after all, eaten up alive by the cat."
Most probably some such thoughts as these discouraged the majority from going out into the world to collect the required information. Only four mice gave notice that they were ready to set out on the journey. They were young and lively, but poor. Each of them wished to visit one of the four divisions of the world, so that it might be seen which was the most favored by fortune. Every one took a sausage skewer as a traveller's staff, and to remind them of the object of their journey. They left home early in May, and none of them returned till the first of May in the following year, and then only three of them. Nothing was seen or heard of the fourth, although the day of decision was close at hand. "Ah, yes, there is always some trouble mixed up with the greatest pleasure," said the mouse-king; but he gave orders that all the mice within a circle of many miles should be invited at once. They were to assemble in the kitchen, and the three travelled mice were to stand in a row before them, while a sausage skewer, covered with crape, was to be stuck up instead of the missing mouse. No one dared to express an opinion until the king spoke, and desired one of them to go on with her story. And now we shall hear what she said.
What the first little mouse saw and heard on her travels
"When I first went out into the world," said the little mouse, "I fancied, as so many of my age do, that I already knew everything, but it was not so. It takes years to acquire great knowledge. I went at once to sea in a ship bound for the north. I had been told that the ship's cook must know how to prepare every dish at sea, and it is easy enough to do that with plenty of sides of bacon, and large tubs of salt meat and mouldy flour. There I found plenty of delicate food, but no opportunity for learning how to make soup from a sausage skewer. We sailed on for many days and nights; the ship rocked fearfully, and we did not escape without a wetting. As soon as we arrived at the port to which the ship was bound, I left it, and went on shore at a place far towards the north. It is a wonderful thing to leave your own little corner at home, to hide yourself in a ship where there are sure to be some nice snug corners for shelter, then suddenly to find yourself thousands of miles away in a foreign land. I saw large pathless forests of pine and birch trees, which smelt so strong that I sneezed and thought of sausage. There were great lakes also which looked as black as ink at a distance, but were quite clear when I came close to them. Large swans were floating upon them, and I thought at first they were only foam, they lay so still; but when I saw them walk and fly, I knew what they were directly. They belong to the goose species, one can see that by their walk. No one can attempt to disguise family descent. I kept with my own kind, and associated with the forest and field mice, who, however, knew very little, especially about what I wanted to know, and which had actually made me travel abroad. The idea that soup could be made from a sausage skewer was to them such an out-of-the-way, unlikely thought, that it was repeated from one to another through the whole forest. They declared that the problem would never be solved, that the thing was an impossibility. How little I thought that in this place, on the very first night, I should be initiated into the manner of its preparation."
"It was the height of summer, which the mice told me was the reason that the forest smelt so strong, and that the herbs were so fragrant, and the lakes with the white swimming swans so dark, and yet so clear. On the margin of the wood, near to three or four houses, a pole, as large as the mainmast of a ship, had been erected, and from the summit hung wreaths of flowers and fluttering ribbons; it was the Maypole. Lads and lasses danced round the pole, and tried to outdo the violins of the musicians with their singing. They were as merry as ever at sunset and in the moonlight, but I took no part in the merry-making. What has a little mouse to do with a Maypole dance? I sat in the soft moss, and held my sausage skewer tight. The moon threw its beams particularly on one spot where stood a tree covered with exceedingly fine moss. I may almost venture to say that it was as fine and soft as the fur of the mouse-king, but it was green, which is a color very agreeable to the eye. All at once I saw the most charming little people marching towards me. They did not reach higher than my knee; they looked like human beings, but were better proportioned, and they called themselves elves. Their clothes were very delicate and fine, for they were made of the leaves of flowers, trimmed with the wings of flies and gnats, which had not a bad effect. By their manner, it appeared as if they were seeking for something. I knew not what, till at last one of them espied me and came towards me, and the foremost pointed to my sausage skewer, and said, 'There, that is just what we want; see, it is pointed at the top; is it not capital?' and the longer he looked at my pilgrim's staff, the more delighted he became. 'I will lend it to you,' said I, 'but not to keep.'"
"'Oh no, we won't keep it!' they all cried; and then they seized the skewer, which I gave up to them, and danced with it to the spot where the delicate moss grew, and set it up in the middle of the green. They wanted a maypole, and the one they now had seemed cut out on purpose for them. Then they decorated it so beautifully that it was quite dazzling to look at. Little spiders spun golden threads around it, and then it was hung with fluttering veils and flags so delicately white that they glittered like snow in the moonshine. After that they took colors from the butterfly's wing, and sprinkled them over the white drapery, which gleamed as if covered with flowers and diamonds, so that I could not recognize my sausage skewer at all. Such a maypole had never been seen in all the world as this. Then came a great company of real elves. Nothing could be finer than their clothes, and they invited me to be present at the feast; but I was to keep at a certain distance, because I was too large for them. Then commenced such music that it sounded like a thousand glass bells, and was so full and strong that I thought it must be the song of the swans. I fancied also that I heard the voices of the cuckoo and the black-bird, and it seemed at last as if the whole forest sent forth glorious melodies– the voices of children, the tinkling of bells, and the songs of the birds; and all this wonderful melody came from the elfin maypole. My sausage peg was a complete peal of bells. I could scarcely believe that so much could have been produced from it, till I remembered into what hands it had fallen. I was so much affected that I wept tears such as a little mouse can weep, but they were tears of joy. The night was far too short for me; there are no long nights there in summer, as we often have in this part of the world. When the morning dawned, and the gentle breeze rippled the glassy mirror of the forest lake, all the delicate veils and flags fluttered away into thin air; the waving garlands of the spider's web, the hanging bridges and galleries, or whatever else they may be called, vanished away as if they had never been. Six elves brought me back my sausage skewer, and at the same time asked me to make any request, which they would grant if in their power; so I begged them, if they could, to tell me how to make soup from a sausage skewer."
"'How do we make it?' said the chief of the elves with a smile. 'Why you have just seen it; you scarcely knew your sausage skewer again, I am sure.'"
"They think themselves very wise, thought I to myself. Then I told them all about it, and why I had travelled so far, and also what promise had been made at home to the one who should discover the method of preparing this soup. 'What use will it be,' I asked, 'to the mouse-king or to our whole mighty kingdom that I have seen all these beautiful things? I cannot shake the sausage peg and say, Look, here is the skewer, and now the soup will come. That would only produce a dish to be served when people were keeping a fast.'"
"Then the elf dipped his finger into the cup of a violet, and said to me, 'Look here, I will anoint your pilgrim's staff, so that when you return to your own home and enter the king's castle, you have only to touch the king with your staff, and violets will spring forth and cover the whole of it, even in the coldest winter time; so I think I have given you really something to carry home, and a little more than something.'"
But before the little mouse explained what this something more was, she stretched her staff out to the king, and as it touched him the most beautiful bunch of violets sprang forth and filled the place with perfume. The smell was so powerful that the mouse-king ordered the mice who stood nearest the chimney to thrust their tails into the fire, that there might be a smell of burning, for the perfume of the violets was overpowering, and not the sort of scent that every one liked.
"But what was the something more of which you spoke just now?" asked the mouse-king.
"Why," answered the little mouse, "I think it is what they call 'effect;'" and thereupon she turned the staff round, and behold not a single flower was to be seen upon it! She now only held the naked skewer, and lifted it up as a conductor lifts his baton at a concert. "Violets, the elf told me," continued the mouse, "are for the sight, the smell, and the touch; so we have only now to produce the effect of hearing and tasting;" and then, as the little mouse beat time with her staff, there came sounds of music, not such music as was heard in the forest, at the elfin feast, but such as is often heard in the kitchen– the sounds of boiling and roasting. It came quite suddenly, like wind rushing through the chimneys, and seemed as if every pot and kettle were boiling over. The fire-shovel clattered down on the brass fender; and then, quite as suddenly, all was still,– nothing could be heard but the light, vapory song of the tea-kettle, which was quite wonderful to hear, for no one could rightly distinguish whether the kettle was just beginning to boil or going to stop. And the little pot steamed, and the great pot simmered, but without any regard for each; indeed there seemed no sense in the pots at all. And as the little mouse waved her baton still more wildly, the pots foamed and threw up bubbles, and boiled over; while again the wind roared and whistled through the chimney, and at last there was such a terrible hubbub, that the little mouse let her stick fall.
"That is a strange sort of soup," said the mouse-king; "shall we not now hear about the preparation?"
"That is all," answered the little mouse, with a bow.
"That all!" said the mouse-king; "then we shall be glad to hear what information the next may have to give us."
What the second mouse had to tell
"I was born in the library, at a castle," said the second mouse. "Very few members of our family ever had the good fortune to get into the dining-room, much less the store-room. On my journey, and here to-day, are the only times I have ever seen a kitchen. We were often obliged to suffer hunger in the library, but then we gained a great deal of knowledge. The rumor reached us of the royal prize offered to those who should be able to make soup from a sausage skewer. Then my old grandmother sought out a manuscript which, however, she could not read, but had heard it read, and in it was written, 'Those who are poets can make soup of sausage skewers.' She then asked me if I was a poet. I felt myself quite innocent of any such pretensions. Then she said I must go out and make myself a poet. I asked again what I should be required to do, for it seemed to me quite as difficult as to find out how to make soup of a sausage skewer. My grandmother had heard a great deal of reading in her day, and she told me three principal qualifications were necessary– understanding, imagination, and feeling. 'If you can manage to acquire these three, you will be a poet, and the sausage-skewer soup will be quite easy to you.'"
"So I went forth into the world, and turned my steps towards the west, that I might become a poet. Understanding is the most important matter in everything. I knew that, for the two other qualifications are not thought much of; so I went first to seek for understanding. Where was I to find it? 'Go to the ant and learn wisdom,' said the great Jewish king. I knew that from living in a library. So I went straight on till I came to the first great ant-hill, and then I set myself to watch, that I might become wise. The ants are a very respectable people, they are wisdom itself. All they do is like the working of a sum in arithmetic, which comes right. 'To work and to lay eggs,' say they, 'and to provide for posterity, is to live out your time properly;' and that they truly do. They are divided into the clean and the dirty ants, their rank is pointed out by a number, and the ant-queen is number ONE; and her opinion is the only correct one on everything; she seems to have the whole wisdom of the world in her, which was just the important matter I wished to acquire. She said a great deal which was no doubt very clever; yet to me it sounded like nonsense. She said the ant-hill was the loftiest thing in the world, and yet close to the mound stood a tall tree, which no one could deny was loftier, much loftier, but no mention was made of the tree. One evening an ant lost herself on this tree; she had crept up the stem, not nearly to the top, but higher than any ant had ever ventured; and when at last she returned home she said that she had found something in her travels much higher than the ant-hill. The rest of the ants considered this an insult to the whole community; so she was condemned to wear a muzzle and to live in perpetual solitude. A short time afterwards another ant got on the tree, and made the same journey and the same discovery, but she spoke of it cautiously and indefinitely, and as she was one of the superior ants and very much respected, they believed her, and when she died they erected an eggshell as a monument to her memory, for they cultivated a great respect for science. I saw," said the little mouse, "that the ants were always running to and fro with her burdens on their backs. Once I saw one of them drop her load; she gave herself a great deal of trouble in trying to raise it again, but she could not succeed. Then two others came up and tried with all their strength to help her, till they nearly dropped their own burdens in doing so; then they were obliged to stop for a moment in their help, for every one must think of himself first. And the ant-queen remarked that their conduct that day showed that they possessed kind hearts and good understanding. 'These two qualities,' she continued, 'place us ants in the highest degree above all other reasonable beings. Understanding must therefore be seen among us in the most prominent manner, and my wisdom is greater than all.' And so saying she raised herself on her two hind legs, that no one else might be mistaken for her. I could not therefore make an error, so I ate her up. We are to go to the ants to learn wisdom, and I had got the queen."
"I now turned and went nearer to the lofty tree already mentioned, which was an oak. It had a tall trunk with a wide-spreading top, and was very old. I knew that a living being dwelt here, a dryad as she is called, who is born with the tree and dies with it. I had heard this in the library, and here was just such a tree, and in it an oak-maiden. She uttered a terrible scream when she caught sight of me so near to her; like many women, she was very much afraid of mice. And she had more real cause for fear than they have, for I might have gnawed through the tree on which her life depended. I spoke to her in a kind and friendly manner, and begged her to take courage. At last she took me up in her delicate hand, and then I told her what had brought me out into the world, and she promised me that perhaps on that very evening she should be able to obtain for me one of the two treasures for which I was seeking. She told me that Phantaesus was her very dear friend, that he was as beautiful as the god of love, that he remained often for many hours with her under the leafy boughs of the tree which then rustled and waved more than ever over them both. He called her his dryad, she said, and the tree his tree; for the grand old oak, with its gnarled trunk, was just to his taste. The root, spreading deep into the earth, the top rising high in the fresh air, knew the value of the drifted snow, the keen wind, and the warm sunshine, as it ought to be known. 'Yes,' continued the dryad, 'the birds sing up above in the branches, and talk to each other about the beautiful fields they have visited in foreign lands; and on one of the withered boughs a stork has built his nest,– it is beautifully arranged, and besides it is pleasant to hear a little about the land of the pyramids. All this pleases Phantaesus, but it is not enough for him; I am obliged to relate to him of my life in the woods; and to go back to my childhood, when I was little, and the tree so small and delicate that a stinging-nettle could overshadow it, and I have to tell everything that has happened since then till now that the tree is so large and strong. Sit you down now under the green bindwood and pay attention, when Phantaesus comes I will find an opportunity to lay hold of his wing and to pull out one of the little feathers. That feather you shall have; a better was never given to any poet, it will be quite enough for you.'"
"And when Phantaesus came the feather was plucked, and," said the little mouse, "I seized and put it in water, and kept it there till it was quite soft. It was very heavy and indigestible, but I managed to nibble it up at last. It is not so easy to nibble one's self into a poet, there are so many things to get through. Now, however, I had two of them, understanding and imagination; and through these I knew that the third was to be found in the library. A great man has said and written that there are novels whose sole and only use appeared to be that they might relieve mankind of overflowing tears– a kind of sponge, in fact, for sucking up feelings and emotions. I remembered a few of these books, they had always appeared tempting to the appetite; they had been much read, and were so greasy, that they must have absorbed no end of emotions in themselves. I retraced my steps to the library, and literally devoured a whole novel, that is, properly speaking, the interior or soft part of it; the crust, or binding, I left. When I had digested not only this, but a second, I felt a stirring within me; then I ate a small piece of a third romance, and felt myself a poet. I said it to myself, and told others the same. I had head-ache and back-ache, and I cannot tell what aches besides. I thought over all the stories that may be said to be connected with sausage pegs, and all that has ever been written about skewers, and sticks, and staves, and splinters came to my thoughts; the ant-queen must have had a wonderfully clear understanding. I remembered the man who placed a white stick in his mouth by which he could make himself and the stick invisible. I thought of sticks as hobby-horses, staves of music or rhyme, of breaking a stick over a man's back, and heaven knows how many more phrases of the same sort relating to sticks, staves, and skewers. All my thoughts rein on skewers, sticks of wood, and staves; and as I am, at last, a poet, and I have worked terribly hard to make myself one, I can of course make poetry on anything. I shall therefore be able to wait upon you every day in the week with a poetical history of a skewer. And that is my soup."
"In that case," said the mouse-king, "we will hear what the third mouse has to say."
"Squeak, squeak," cried a little mouse at the kitchen door; it was the fourth, and not the third, of the four who were contending for the prize, one whom the rest supposed to be dead. She shot in like an arrow, and overturned the sausage peg that had been covered with crape. She had been running day and night. She had watched an opportunity to get into a goods train, and had travelled by the railway; and yet she had arrived almost too late. She pressed forward, looking very much ruffled. She had lost her sausage skewer, but not her voice; for she began to speak at once as if they only waited for her, and would hear her only, and as if nothing else in the world was of the least consequence. She spoke out so clearly and plainly, and she had come in so suddenly, that no one had time to stop her or to say a word while she was speaking. And now let us hear what she said.
What the fourth mouse, who spoke before the third, had to tell
"I started off at once to the largest town," said she, "but the name of it has escaped me. I have a very bad memory for names. I was carried from the railway, with some forfeited goods, to the jail, and on arriving I made my escape, and ran into the house of the turnkey. The turnkey was speaking of his prisoners, especially of one who had uttered thoughtless words. These words had given rise to other words, and at length they were written down and registered: 'The whole affair is like making soup of sausage skewers,' said he, 'but the soup may cost him his neck.'"
"Now this raised in me an interest for the prisoner," continued the little mouse, "and I watched my opportunity, and slipped into his apartment, for there is a mouse-hole to be found behind every closed door. The prisoner looked pale; he had a great beard and large, sparkling eyes. There was a lamp burning, but the walls were so black that they only looked the blacker for it. The prisoner scratched pictures and verses with white chalk on the black walls, but I did not read the verses. I think he found his confinement wearisome, so that I was a welcome guest. He enticed me with bread-crumbs, with whistling, and with gentle words, and seemed so friendly towards me, that by degrees I gained confidence in him, and we became friends; he divided his bread and water with me, gave me cheese and sausage, and I really began to love him. Altogether, I must own that it was a very pleasant intimacy. He let me run about on his hand, and on his arm, and into his sleeve; and I even crept into his beard, and he called me his little friend. I forgot what I had come out into the world for; forgot my sausage skewer which I had laid in a crack in the floor– it is lying there still. I wished to stay with him always where I was, for I knew that if I went away the poor prisoner would have no one to be his friend, which is a sad thing. I stayed, but he did not. He spoke to me so mournfully for the last time, gave me double as much bread and cheese as usual, and kissed his hand to me. Then he went away, and never came back. I know nothing more of his history."
"The jailer took possession of me now. He said something about soup from a sausage skewer, but I could not trust him. He took me in his hand certainly, but it was to place me in a cage like a tread-mill. Oh how dreadful it was! I had to run round and round without getting any farther in advance, and only to make everybody laugh. The jailer's grand-daughter was a charming little thing. She had curly hair like the brightest gold, merry eyes, and such a smiling mouth."
"'You poor little mouse,' said she, one day as she peeped into my cage, 'I will set you free.' She then drew forth the iron fastening, and I sprang out on the window-sill, and from thence to the roof. Free! free! that was all I could think of; not of the object of my journey. It grew dark, and as night was coming on I found a lodging in an old tower, where dwelt a watchman and an owl. I had no confidence in either of them, least of all in the owl, which is like a cat, and has a great failing, for she eats mice. One may however be mistaken sometimes; and so was I, for this was a respectable and well-educated old owl, who knew more than the watchman, and even as much as I did myself. The young owls made a great fuss about everything, but the only rough words she would say to them were, 'You had better go and make some soup from sausage skewers.' She was very indulgent and loving to her children. Her conduct gave me such confidence in her, that from the crack where I sat I called out 'squeak.' This confidence of mine pleased her so much that she assured me she would take me under her own protection, and that not a creature should do me harm. The fact was, she wickedly meant to keep me in reserve for her own eating in winter, when food would be scarce. Yet she was a very clever lady-owl; she explained to me that the watchman could only hoot with the horn that hung loose at his side; and then she said he is so terribly proud of it, that he imagines himself an owl in the tower;– wants to do great things, but only succeeds in small; all soup on a sausage skewer. Then I begged the owl to give me the recipe for this soup. 'Soup from a sausage skewer,' said she, 'is only a proverb amongst mankind, and may be understood in many ways. Each believes his own way the best, and after all, the proverb signifies nothing.' 'Nothing!' I exclaimed. I was quite struck. Truth is not always agreeable, but truth is above everything else, as the old owl said. I thought over all this, and saw quite plainly that if truth was really so far above everything else, it must be much more valuable than soup from a sausage skewer. So I hastened to get away, that I might be home in time, and bring what was highest and best, and above everything– namely, the truth. The mice are an enlightened people, and the mouse-king is above them all. He is therefore capable of making me queen for the sake of truth."
"Your truth is a falsehood," said the mouse who had not yet spoken; "I can prepare the soup, and I mean to do so."
How it was prepared
"I did not travel," said the third mouse; "I stayed in this country: that was the right way. One gains nothing by travelling– everything can be acquired here quite as easily; so I stayed at home. I have not obtained what I know from supernatural beings. I have neither swallowed it, nor learnt it from conversing with owls. I have got it all from my reflections and thoughts. Will you now set the kettle on the fire– so? Now pour the water in– quite full– up to the brim; place it on the fire; make up a good blaze; keep it burning, that the water may boil; it must boil over and over. There, now I throw in the skewer. Will the mouse-king be pleased now to dip his tail into the boiling water, and stir it round with the tail. The longer the king stirs it, the stronger the soup will become. Nothing more is necessary, only to stir it."
"Can no one else do this?" asked the king.
"No," said the mouse; "only in the tail of the mouse-king is this power contained."
And the water boiled and bubbled, as the mouse-king stood close beside the kettle. It seemed rather a dangerous performance; but he turned round, and put out his tail, as mice do in a dairy, when they wish to skim the cream from a pan of milk with their tails and afterwards lick it off. But the mouse-king's tail had only just touched the hot steam, when he sprang away from the chimney in a great hurry, exclaiming, "Oh, certainly, by all means, you must be my queen; and we will let the soup question rest till our golden wedding, fifty years hence; so that the poor in my kingdom, who are then to have plenty of food, will have something to look forward to for a long time, with great joy."
And very soon the wedding took place. But many of the mice, as they were returning home, said that the soup could not be properly called "soup from a sausage skewer," but "soup from a mouse's tail." They acknowledged also that some of the stories were very well told; but that the whole could have been managed differently. "I should have told it so– and so– and so." These were the critics who are always so clever afterwards.
When this story was circulated all over the world, the opinions upon it were divided; but the story remained the same. And, after all, the best way in everything you undertake, great as well as small, is to expect no thanks for anything you may do, even when it refers to "soup from a sausage skewer."