The mice learn to sing psalms
By Pam Bateman
One day when Granny Mouse was safely out of the way, Hannah decided to have a little snoop in the sewing room. There, to her consternation, she came across five tweedy mice sitting very still, complete with ears and whiskers, but… they didn’t have any tails or (even more importantly) any eyes. Of course she soon realised that they were still ‘in the making’.
It brought to Hannah’s memory a little song she knew about three blind mice. She didn’t like the song much – for a start it didn’t make sense (how could blind mice run after someone they couldn’t see?) – and it made her sad because, being an empathetic little mouse she knew just how it would feel to have one’s beautiful tail chopped off (quite apart from the ignominy of it).
So Hannah decided to make up her own, happier version of this rather morose little nursery rhyme, and when she’d found the rest of the tweedy mice, together with the five (who were no longer eyeless, tailless or silent) whom she found enjoying their very first taste of cheese, she sang this to them:
Five blind mice, little tweedy mice,
See how they sit, looking so sad...
They all cried out to the carpenter’s wife
Who cut them some cheese with a Stanley knife.
She sewed on a tail and a pair of eyes—
And now they’re as happy as skylarks!
“I’m not really much of a poet,” admitted Hannah shyly. But all the tweedy mice laughed and clapped, saying they much preferred her version (even though the last line didn’t quite fit).
“Why are skylarks happy?” asked Melrose.
“Perhaps they seem to us to be happy because they sing such delightful songs as they rise up, up, up into the air. They fly so high that we soon lose sight of them; but you can still hear their beautiful singing long after they become invisible,” explained Granny Mouse.
“It must be
wonderful to be able to sing beautifully,” mused Hannah, a little wistfully.
“You’ve got a lovely voice, Hannah! You don’t need any lessons,” said Pamela. “But it would be good if the others could all learn how to sing. Why don’t we ask Dolaidh to teach them?”
“That’s an excellent idea, Pam. Let’s go and ask him,” exclaimed Hannah.
Hannah and Pamela scampered off happily to find Dolaidh, who didn’t need much persuasion and agreed to coach the mice to sing. On one condition: he would only teach them psalms. Many of the younger mice didn’t know what psalms were but they were happy to be taught to sing anything, especially if there was the possibility of some special cheese afterwards.
It took a while to gather all the mice – trying to get them to stay in line was another matter entirely.
“Right,” said Dolaidh at last, climbing onto the soapbox. “Boys at the back and girls at the front and all facing me please. Pamela and Hannah, you don’t need a singing lesson so you can assist me if you like. Perhaps you could stand on the harp where you can see them all, and do your best to keep them in order.”
“What about the ones who can’t sing?” asked Squeaky, who couldn’t sing.
“You can all go over on my left and sing quietly,” replied Dolaidh. “Hey! You three at the back – Rufus! Winston! Keith! I said face me please.”
A tiny little ‘ping’ was heard, as an unseen paw plucked top C on the harp. Titters, squeaks and giggles burst from some of the girl mice as they pointed at Ozzie, Patch and Trouble who were peeping through the harp strings – ears, noses and whiskers just visible.
“I might have guessed! You three as usual,” sighed Dolaidh.” Well, you can stay where you are, but I don’t want to hear a peep out of you! Hannah, keep your beady eyes on them. Pamela, please pluck Middle C and then the A above that, and we’ll begin with a verse from Psalm 23, which is perhaps the best loved and most well-known of the psalms, to the tune Crimond.” Dolaidh, Pamela and Hannah sang it through once and then the others joined in, including the three mischievous ones. Many of the older mice already knew it quite well as they’d often enjoyed hearing Granny and Grandpa Mouse sing it. It seemed to have a calming effect on them, and there were no more disruptions.
They liked the idea of a shepherd making his
sheep lie down in green pastures, and then leading them beside still waters.
They felt sorry for the two sheep across the fence, where the grass isn’t very
green and there are no still waters, just the wind and the rain.
Patch and Trouble may be mischievous (well, actually, there isn’t any “may be” about it!), but they are kind little mice. Next day, enlisting the help of Keith, Robert, Andrew, Paddy and Bertie, they had managed to open the fridge door and were in the very act of tiptoeing towards the kitchen door with a huge slab of cheese, when …
“Where do you lot think you are going with that huge slab of cheese?” asked a very puzzled and slightly cross Granny Mouse.
“Er… we thought the sheep might be hungry not having any lovely green grass, and… and…” began Patch, not quite knowing what to say next.
“… it was too heavy for Patch and me,” continued Trouble, “so we asked these others to help us carry it. We couldn’t find Ozzie anywhere, or he’d be here too.”
“Well, that’s a very kind thought,” smiled Granny Mouse, relieved that their motive was generous and not greedy (for she had feared they were taking it to the barn to gorge themselves), “but sheep eat grass, not cheese; and I think they have plenty to eat.”
Opening the kitchen door, Granny Mouse said, “Look, they’re lying down chewing the cud. I read once in a little book on Psalm 23, written by a shepherd who had looked after sheep since he was a boy and knew all about sheep, that hungry sheep don’t lie down contentedly. So let’s put the cheese back in the fridge, shall we?” said Granny Mouse, pretending not to notice the tiny teeth marks on the side where Paddy and Keith had been ‘assisting’.
“Granny Mouse,” began Bertie, “why is there an envelope by the back door?”
“Ah! Well spotted, little mouse! That’s a card for Mama Kayden who passed her driving test today. But where is Ozzie? I think we ought to go and look for him. He’s probably up to something,” she sighed.
As if on cue, Ozzie appeared, looking very pleased with himself.
“Hello everyone! Did you miss me?”
“Yes we did!” squeaked all the mice. “Where have you been, Ozzie? And did you bring us any cheese?”
“Sorry, no cheese. I’ve been to visit such a kind-hearted lady – a friend of Granny Mouse called Mo-Mouse – who gave me this teddy she’d made. I’ve named him Coffee. Mo-Mouse also makes mice, but not tweedy ones. You all know Matilda who came to live here before the tweedy mice? Well, she’s one of them. They are all very sweet and well behaved, just like Matilda.”
Rather sternly, but gently, Granny Mouse reprimanded Ozzie for going off on his own without telling anyone, and he promised not to do so again. She gave him a hug and forgave him and he scampered off happily to tell the others of his adventures.
© 2019 PRAB.
The Lord our Shepherd by J. Douglas MacMillan, first published 1983.
 It has been noticed, however, that sheep also lie down when it’s extremely windy (and of course to sleep!).
 Kayden is Granny Mouse’s great-grandson #1, son of granddaughter #1.