Saturday, 3 December 2011

Carols and Mulled Ale

For Day Three of the Advent Bookfest I couldn’t resist the carol singing field-mice in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. Ratty and Mole are returning to River Bank after Badger has rescued them from the Wild Wood, when Mole hears his old home calling him, so they head there instead. They hear scuffling and voices outside.
“It was a pretty sight, and a seasonable one, that met their eyes when they flung the door open. In the fore-court, lit by the dim rays of a horn lantern, some eight or ten little fieldmice stood in a semicircle, red worsted comforters round their throats, their fore-paws thrust deep into their pockets, their feet jigging for warmth. With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at each other, sniggering a little, sniffing and applying coat-sleeves a good deal. As the door opened, one of the elder ones that carried the lantern was just saying, 'Now then, one, two, three!' and forthwith their shrill little voices uprose on the air, singing one of the old-time carols that their forefathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost, or when snow-bound in chimney corners, and handed down to be sung in the miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time.”
A mouse is dispatched to buy provisions for a festive feast for all, while The Rat supervises the making of mulled ale.
“It did not take long to prepare the brew and thrust the tin heater well into the red heart of the fire; and soon every field-mouse was sipping and coughing and choking (for a little mulled ale goes a long way) and wiping his eyes and laughing and forgetting he had ever been cold in all his life.”
From Dulce Domum, (chapter 5), The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. By the way, if you haven’t read this, you can download it, free, from Project Gutenberg, at, although, sadly, EH Shepard’s illustrations are not included.    

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