Chapter 3:

Hard Times

Tuesday, September 22, 1897

(CUE MUSIC: "Neptune", from Gustav Holst's "The Planets")

The Mouse Gypsy Caravan at Trafalgar Square was more busy & bustling than ever before, especially after the success of Madame Ratburn & Anya's experiment! In addition to dealing with the usual psychic & otherworldly affairs, the elderly sage was helping Anya make new inventions at the New Technology Factory, & otherwise assisting her in implementing modern notions & novelties (like shopping malls or emergency phone numbers)...not to mention she was also getting technology requests & suggestions from rodents around the world, when she wasn't receiving visits from her usual clients & customers. And Madame Ratburn & Anya were kept even more occupied with all the banquets & dinner parties they were invited to every week! Sometimes, Madame Ratburn would literally be exhausted after all the activity, & in order to give the clairvoyant the time she needed to regain her lost energy, Pias & the other Mouse Gypsies would often offer to work as Anya's helpers. To be honest, Madame Ratburn didn't know how much longer she could keep up with the frenetic pace of her new life—at least, not with her usual routines. If she was going to be able to continue to fulfill her fursonal duties, there would have to be some changes made in her daily schedule, some alterations in her lifestyle...but Madame Ratburn was sure that she could successfully make those sacrifices, &—since she believed the benefits ultimately outweighed the risks—she was quite willing to do so. In the meantime, Madame Ratburn was perfectly content to sit with Anya & Pias at her table, where the 3 rodents were sharing a late lunch. As they all helped themselves to their delicious midday meal, the friends engaged in several conversations with one another, chatting over various topics.

At one point, while she was pouring some tea for Pias, Madame Ratburn asked the gardener, "So, tell me, Pias, have you noticed the changes that have been occurring in Mouse London?"

Pias nodded his head, then took his newly-filled teacup into his clawed paws, as he replied, "Well, the answer to that question should be fairly obvious to you, Madame Ratburn..." He paused to take a sip of his drink, before continuing, "The city—not to mention the entire mouse world—has undergone a complete revolution, & technology & society have improved greatly in the last several weeks...just as you predicted."

"Yes," Madame Ratburn uttered in response, as she telekinetically spread some butter on a slice of bread with a knife. After taking the snack into her mouth, & eating it, the psychic added, "But do you realize that there are even more changes to occur?"

"I have no doubt in my mind that you are correct," Pias answered pleasantly. "If we rodents were able to gain a new technology, adopt the ways of modern life, & overcome our social, racial, & other differences over the past month, then who knows what else we could accomplish in the years to come?"

Upon hearing the Gypsy gardener's response to her question, Madame Ratburn couldn't help but smile & chuckle a little, before telling her pal in a playful manner, "That's not exactly what I'm talking about, Pias." With a wave of her paw, Madame Ratburn caused one of the tomes on her big bookcase to disappear off the shelf...before reappearing above the table, & floating over the heads of the medium & her friends. Telekinetically opening the levitating book to reveal the illustrations painted on its pages, Madame Ratburn said in her "mystical" voice (which she often adopted in these situations), "Otherworldly sources are telling me that a prophecy from the days of long ago is bound to come true very, very soon." [1]

Looking at the book's illustrations with Madame Ratburn & Anya, Pias remarked, "Ah, I see...But what is the prophecy?"

Flipping each page to reveal a new picture that seemed to perfectly accompany the words she spoke, Madame Ratburn explained, "Well, many of the ancient mouse sorcerers of Medieval England predicted that shortly before the dawn of the last century of the second millennium—er, that would probably be around this time—a super-terrible force of evil would rise to power, & begin spreading its wicked influence over the United Mouse Kingdom."

"So Mouse London is to succumb to a reign of unholy terror?" Anya asked anxiously, not entirely sure what to make of what Madame Ratburn had just told her & Pias.

"I didn't say that, Anya," Madame Ratburn responded. "Please let me finish."

"Yes, of course, sorry," Anya apologized, &, with that, Madame Ratburn continued her explanation (complete with illustrations): "However, as I was saying earlier...according to the prophecy, there will be another force to stop the 'Legion'—er, 'League Of Villains'...a force of goodness & righteousness. But this force is not like anything you've ever seen...or ever will see again."

"What do you mean?" Pias questioned quizzically.

"Well, Pias," Madame Ratburn answered, "I mean that an unlikely group of rodents will band together to form the ultimate crime-fighting family, & save the mouse world from the forces of evil."

"But who are these rodents?" Pias asked, as his curiosity became even stronger. "What are their names?"

"And where do they come from?" Anya wondered aloud.

Madame Ratburn just smiled, her expression taking on that playful quality once again. "That, I'm afraid, you'll just have to find out for yourself," the sage replied teasingly, before closing the book shut, & "mind-moving" it back over to her bookcase.

Then, Madame Ratburn turned back to face Pias & Anya at the table...but before the 3 rodents could continue their conversations while they finished their lunch, Pias & Anya both looked concerned when they saw Madame Ratburn begin to shiver & shudder violently, as if she felt a cold draft blowing through the wagon.

Reaching for a nearby blanket, which she proceeded to drape around Madame Ratburn in the hopes of warding off her chills, Anya asked worriedly, "Are you all right, Elizabella? Is something wrong?"

It took a few minutes to pass, before Madame Ratburn stopped shaking, & finally made her answer in a grave tone-of-voice: "I'm getting a strong sense of negative energy...Something dreadful is happening, Mouse London..." Then, she began to receive little flashes of visions in her mind that gave her a somewhat-clearer picture of the situation: "Yes, it's happening on Walnut Avenue...Lower 3314...Poor Hiram Flaversham & his family are struggling...with their business...No, not just that...They're at the poverty level..."

"Who are the Flavershams?" asked Anya, having never heard of them before.

"A Scottish mouse toymaker & his two young daughters," Madame Ratburn replied in that still-somber tone. "They have three other mouselings, relatives, with them...They happen to be Mr. Flaversham's nephew & nieces, & his daughters' cousins...They've been living with them for the past few weeks...&, unfortunately, they, too, are sharing in their families' sufferings...That's all I can tell you right now." As she wrapped her blanket more tightly around herself, Madame Ratburn's expression grew melancholy, & the psychic said with a sorrowful shake of her head, "Poor Mr. Flaversham...poor little mouselings! I only wish there was something I could do to help them somehow..."

Sometimes, the weather in Mouse London could be very unpredictable. One moment, it would be sunny & clear, & the next, it would be overcast. Such was the case for this particular afternoon, for the sun had suddenly disappeared behind the blanket of nimbostratus clouds that were now appearing in the skies, covering Mouse London in their canopy of gloomy gray & silver hues. Occasionally, stray leaves & bits of garbage flew about in the September wind, which now carried a sharp, biting sting in its chilly caresses. On the pavement outside Walnut Avenue, hardly any rodents were to be seen...except for a tomboyish-looking newspaper mousette who walked down the sidewalk, waving her wares in the air, as she announced the headlines of the afternoon editions of certain gazettes: "Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Flaversham's Toy Shop is losing in the struggle with competing rivals! Small business is suffering in the shadows of super-companies in the New Industrial Revolution! Read all about it!" As the newspaper mousette said this, she did not realize that she was standing right outside Flaversham's Toy Shop...which had really gone to Hades since Hiram reopened it.

(CUE MUSIC: 1st movement of Giaochino Rossini's "William Tell Overture" [abridged version from the "Clockwork Orange" soundtrack]) [2]

If one were to have stepped inside the main room of the building at Lower 3314 Walnut Avenue, one would have been shocked to see how much it had changed in the 2 last months! The toy shop now looked deteriorated & dilapidated from days of neglect. Dust & filth & cobwebs were now starting to gather everywhere, & on everything. The bulb in the lamp over the worktable was now burnt out...& had been for quite some time, along with the lights in the rest of the building, for Hiram could no longer afford to pay his electric bill; as a result, all the rooms were void of any illumination, & were continually left in a state of deep, dismal darkness. The steel box & cash register that Hiram kept on his desk were void of any money, & not a single toy had been taken off the shelves. In short, the place was an absolute, miserable wreck—far from the image the Flavershams had once had of their business blossoming & flourishing in the months since it was reopened! And, already, Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & two other cousins were starting to feel the effects of the poverty that was afflicting them. Their clothes were worn, ragged, & dirty, but they had no money to buy new outfits. They had been rendered thin & frail from excessive hunger, & had grown sickly & pale from malnutrition, but they had no money to buy food. Their expressions were sad & melancholy...& even Olivia could not seem to find a reason to smile anymore. Staring at her father with wide, sunken eyes, Olivia said in a throaty, raspy voice, "Daddy...I'm hungry."

"I know, dear," Hiram replied sadly, petting his youngest daughter's fur-hair.

Olivia & Arden's other cousin was agreeing with Olivia. She was 5 years old, but 2 minutes younger than Olivia, & she was very small and slim for her age. Tan fur covered her body, & a wave of matching fur-hair adorned the top of her head. There were light tan markings on her muzzle and underbelly, complete with a small, black nose jutting out from between her adventurous hazel eyes. Her small, thin appendages ended in small paws & feet. She also had her fur-hair pulled back into a ponytail with a light tan tip (by a clear plastic hair-bob), plus her tail was short & slender. She was wearing a loose, ragged tan shirt with short, tattered sleeves, a very-low collar, and splotches of mud decorating the front, along with a pair of loose, muddy brown pants with torn legs that went down to her knees. The only things she was not wearing were shoes.

"Hey...what about me, Uncle Hiram?" Cousin Samantha asked in a hoarse, haggard voice. "I'm hungry, too."

"Well, I'm hungrier than you are, Samantha!" Olivia retorted, putting up a weak argument. After coughing into her tiny hand, the mouseling added, "I don't think I've eaten in over a day..." She placed her paw on her empty belly, & said, "My tummy hurts."

"Yes, mine, too." Arden added.

"Mine, three," Cousin Samantha whined. "And my neck hurts, and so do my feet and head."

"Well, my tummy hurts even more." complained Cousin Tina.

"Yeah, mine, too," Cousin Timmy assented. "And my head hurts...& my tail hurts...&, well...everything hurts."

"I'm sure it does, Timmy," Hiram said empathetically, nodding his head in agreement. "I'm hurting a little, too, now that you mention it."

By this point, Olivia was being driven closer & closer to the point of despair, & all sorts of horrible fears & worries were beginning to consume her soul. "What do we do, Daddy?" Olivia asked Hiram, unable to hide the growing desperation she was feeling in her family's dire situation. "If we don't eat something soon, we'll all get sick, &...&...die." Tears sprang to her brown eyes, & the Glaswegian 5-year-old girl hugged her father tightly, whimpering sadly, "I don't want to die, Daddy..."

Arden's eyes filled up with tears as well. "I don't want to die either, Papa!" Arden sobbed.

Hiram held Olivia & Arden close, & tried to comfort his daughters. "It'll be all right, dear," he told her gently, yet with firm determination. "I promise you, we'll get through this. The Flaversham family always makes it through the best of times..."

"...& the worst of times," Olivia finished her father's favorite saying, her voice cracking tearfully, as she shivered with a sob. After coughing a bit, Olivia & Arden began to cry softly, hiding their tears in Hiram's shirtfront. Still, the toymaker continued to console the girls, trying to ease her fears & sorrows as best as he could.

Then, a few minutes later, the heartrending scene was interrupted when Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha all reacted to the sound of approaching footsteps. Putting Olivia & Arden down on the floor, Hiram gasped, & cried, "Customers!" Without wasting another second, Hiram quickly ran to the door of the toy shop, & opened it, stepping out onto the pavement. Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Cousin Ursula all made a dash for the display window, still filled with numerous toys that were all covered in dust, before crawling up onto the ledge, & gazing through the filthy windowpanes to get a better look at the action going on outside. The five mouselings watched Hiram approaching various rodents in the massive crowd that was gathering on the sidewalk of Walnut Avenue. As he made his way through the mob, Hiram vainly tried to get passersby to come into his building, pleading with each furson he spoke to in absolute desperation: "Madame, are you interested in buying toys? How about you, sir? Are you interested in buying any toys today? Excuse me..."

At one point, Hiram approached a well-dressed gentlemouse, asking him, "My good mouse...By any chance, are you interested in buying toys?" When the gentlemouse began walking away, Hiram clung to his jacket-tails, begging with the fellow to show some compassion for him & his loved ones. "Please, sir, have pity on a poor, starving family!" the toymaker pleaded. The irritated gentlemouse managed to free himself from Hiram's grasp, however, & Hiram fell flat on his face...but no one came to his aid. No one came over to ask if he was all right, let alone help him back up onto his feet. No one offered to assist him in his time of need...

Hiram could almost-literally feel himself becoming lost in the crowd, alienated by his overwhelming sense of despair & helplessness. Didn't anyone care about him? Didn't anyone care about what he & his family were going through? Whatever happened to the basic Mousetorian values of love, generosity, kindness, compassion, & charity? Had they disappeared with the dawning of the Neo-Mousetorian Age? Were the principles of the new society so different from those of the previous decades, that all the old virtues had been completely forgotten? Hiram didn't know...&, quite frankly, he didn't even want to think about what the answers to those questions might be. As he rose to his feet, swept the dust off his clothing, went back to his sidewalk search, & continued to plead with passersby, trying to bring their attention to his toy shop, the only thing that Hiram could think was that this new technology (& everything having to do with it) was not a godsend for small-business owners like him; in fact, it was the very cause of all their latest problems... ________________________________________ Wednesday, September 23, 1897 Much to the Flavershams' dismay, the rest of Tuesday had ended up in no arrival of customers, no sales, & no money, which made the evening a very miserable one for Hiram, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Cousin Ursula. Hiram had to go to Sophie's Flower Shop on the corner to ask his neighbor & friend for some cash to buy dinner; Sophie, being the kind & generous furson she was, was all-too-happy to help Hiram, & she gave him 10 pounds, with which the toymaker bought meals for himself, his daughters, his nephew, & his nieces. [3] The Flavershams ended up going to bed with full stomachs, & they managed to sleep soundly through the night, but Hiram—always an early riser—woke up an hour sooner than he normally liked to do. Having nothing else to do with the extra time on his paws, Hiram decided to get dressed in his work outfit, & ever since 6:30 AM, he had been sitting at his table in the main room, working on new sets of toys for potential customers. The events of the previous day, though disheartening, did not leave the Scotsmouse discouraged; he continued to work at his craft with never-wavering determination & perseverance, certain that today would be a better day for business. With each passing second, his spirits seemed to lift just a little more, especially as the toy shop became filled with the first rays of early-morning sunlight...All the while, Hiram worked on making the new toys in serene silence—a silence only pierced by the melodies of songbirds, the hum of vehicle motors, & the occasional footsteps of pedestrians.

One would hardly think that Hiram would have any reason to feel cheerful, especially after yesterday's unsuccessful attempts to attract customers to the toy shop. But Hiram simply couldn't give up hope—to do so would be going against his very nature as an optimist & an idealist! Yes, there were bad times that came about in one's life; there were sometimes storms to weather, rough roads to travel, obstacles to overcome...but all of those feats could successfully be undertaken! As long as one kept hope in his or her heart, there was no mountain that couldn't be climbed, no star that couldn't be reached, no river that couldn't be crossed, no adversity or adversary that couldn't be defeated! To lose hope was to lose sight of all possibilities for the future, & that was the first step on the road to fursonal defeat. No matter how grim things seemed, no matter how dire or desperate a situation looked, Hiram could not—would not—let himself give up hope in any way, shape, or form; he needed to hold onto that hope, & he needed to keep faith in his heart, to never let it waver for one second...Otherwise, things wouldn't even have a chance of getting better.

And, yet, there were certain facts that Hiram had to face. His business was failing, & his family had now unofficially reached the poverty level. He wasn't getting any customers, &, therefore, he had no money to even buy basic necessities. He needed to find a way to keep his family afloat, but he didn't want to keep asking his neighbors for money all the time...Oh, Hiram knew there just had to be a way to bring him & his loved ones out of their financial straits, but what was it? What could Hiram do to remedy those problems while he tried to get his business going again? After thinking about it for a while, the toymaker finally got an idea: why not listen to the radio for some inspiration? With that in mind, Hiram reached underneath his worktable, & took out a portable radio that he had bought a couple of weeks ago. Once he had placed said radio on the surface of his desk, Hiram turned it on, adjusted the volume so that only he could hear it, & began fiddling with the dials, hoping to find a good station to listen to.

As he manipulated the radio, Hiram started to reflect on his thoughts about the new technology—every opinion he had formed of it since that first night in Mouse London. Ultimately, he believed it did have certain drawbacks, & there were some negative effects that the technology had on fursons who owned small businesses...fursons like the Flavershams. And in those aspects, the new technology was partially to blame for these businessrodents' entrepreneurial / financial difficulties, so it did play a role in the Flavershams' crisis. But it was not the only factor, & it was most certainly not an entirely-bad thing—far from it! In all his life, Hiram could never have imagined that they would make fast food, microwaves, radios, GPS tracking devices, mobile phones, computers, airplanes, or any of the other inventions that had been produced in the last two months! So many wonderful things had been created, helping to improve the lives of rodents around the world, & Hiram dared not even consider denouncing Madame Ratburn & Anya for making them! In short, the new technology was a mixed blessing, with pros & cons, with upsides & many other things in the mouse world. Hiram just wished that the downsides didn't have such a big impact on folks who practiced simpler trades...

Although, to be honest, Hiram did have to admit that he didn't understand some things about the new technology, & there were certain issues related to particular aspects of it that bothered him. The main thing that troubled him was the formation of super-companies—powerful business corporations that had an unfortunate tendency to leave smaller enterprises in the proverbial dust, unless they somehow managed to keep up in the ever-quickening pace of the industrial race. That, in itself, was disconcerting enough, but there was something else, too...While Hiram normally made it a fursonal rule to always see the best in rodents, he couldn't help but sometimes question the characters of the super-company owners. He (along with several other rodents in Mouse London) had heard rumors about corruption, embezzlement, fraud, environmental damage, & other awful acts on the part of the "big business" bosses—the rumors about child labor & exploitation, in particular, were the worst of all! Hiram wasn't one to instantly buy into rumors, & he never thought it was wise to do so—especially when said rumors eerily resembled the ones that were circulating just a few months ago, before the Month Of Change...Hiram hoped the rumors about child labor weren't true. He prayed they weren't true! And, yet, what if they were? He couldn't stomach the thought of poor, impoverished mouselings being forced to work in factories from sunrise to sunset, toiling under cruel treatment from overseers, with hardly any breaks for food, relaxation, or rest? Those kinds of practices were supposed to be a thing of the past, especially after Queen Mousetoria put certain laws into effect several years ago... [4]

Additionally, there was one other issue that really worried Hiram. The toy companies that had formed in the wake of the technology boost were producing playthings of modern function & design—most of these were made of plastic, polyester, & PVC, but some were made of metal materials, too. Some of the new toys had buttons, some of them had switches, some of them had lights, some of them talked, some of them walked, some of them sang & danced...but no matter what their purpose was, or what functions they performed, all the toys came in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, & appearances. In some ways, they weren't so much different from the traditional toys that folks like Hiram liked to make...but they seemed to be catching rodentlings' interest a lot more these days. Hiram had to admit, the craftsmouseship used in making the new toys was impressive—in fact, it almost rivaled his own! But, still, not much love or care went into the process of producing these modern playthings; for all their glitz & glamour, they couldn't seem to convey that warm, fuzzy feeling one got when (s)he played with a pawmade choo-choo train, or snuggled a smiling dolly...

Hiram was not one to wish ill will on any business rival (except a particular one he knew), even the rodents who worked in these new toy companies. [5] He was a staunch supporter of the idea of free enterprise; business was a game in which all participants should have a fair turn, & no one "player" should have an unfair advantage over another. The game would have its winners & its losers...but, in the end, what mattered most was that everyone played honestly, & at least had a reasonable chance of winning, if nothing more. And Hiram was not going to be one of the cheaters or sore losers that ruined the game for everyone; he never had any intention of doing so. But, still, he couldn't help but wonder if those new toy companies were gaining an unfair advantage over smaller businesses...Maybe, that was the reason why traditional toys seemed to be dying out? Why Hiram wasn't getting the support of any customers? Why Hiram's toy shop was struggling just to remain open? It certainly seemed to be the case...but, hopefully, Hiram could find a way to keep up in the industrial race, to overcome the problems he was facing now. And if, somehow, he couldn't, he could still support himself as a regular inventor; he had plenty of skill in that field, too. [6] But, still, it would be very hard for him to close up the toy shop he had run for several years, ever since he first moved to Mouse London...

But enough worrying about that, Hiram thought, as he finally switched to the KBIZ radio station—the very station where he hoped to find ideas & inspiration for a way to deal with his trials & tribulations. The early-morning show was on, & Hiram listened carefully to every word the announcer said, while trying to calm his excited nerves by working on his new batch of toys. "Good morning, morning, morning, Mouse London!" the announcer chirped cheerfully. "And a big 'hello' to all you early birds who are listening in now! It's a bright, beautiful Wednesday morning, as sunny & clear as any dawn you'll see in our lovely city, & have we got great news for you! Mainly about the toy industry...but, seriously, who hasn't been talking about that the last few weeks?" The announcer let out a chuckle, before continuing, "Anyway, let's start off the news with the latest toy releases, shall we? OK, first, Jingo Toys just put out the latest set of Hot Rods miniature vehicles..." [7]

On & on, the announcer went, as he talked about all the newest & hottest toys on the market, from Miss Molly Cuddles' baby sister, to the Mr. Cheese Head toy (complete with accessories)...It was a while before he finally got to the part of the news that Hiram had really wanted to listen to: the latest developments in the toy industry! "Well, the new companies are moving right along in the toymaking race," said the announcer, "& we're seeing more & more signs of it every day. The Big Rainbow Toy Company, Jingo Toys, Funtime Toys, & Childhood Wonders are the Top 4 companies right now, & I have no doubt that we'll find out what other corporations are taking the lead...just as soon as we get more word from our reporters. But, in any case, business appears to be booming for our big super-companies! I swear, every time one of them releases new toys on the market, the customers start lining up, as soon as word reaches their ears! And let me tell you, once the doors to the toy stores open, all those playthings start selling like hotcakes!"

As he listened to these reports, Hiram began to get increasingly angry. It was almost as if that malicious radio announcer was mocking him, taunting him with his reports of children who were "happily" buying toys from companies who probably made them in sweatshops, on the backs of thousands of poor, miserable orphans! It was enough to make him sick. Hoping to distract himself from the dark thoughts brewing inside his head, Hiram went back to working on his toys, as he listened to the rest of the announcer's speech: "Well, anyway, let's wrap up the news with one final announcement. A brand-new toy store has just opened at the London Mouse Mini-Mall! So, if you're into playthings as much as I am, come on down to Toyland for some of the coolest toys ever invented!"

That did it. Hiram, no longer able to contain his inner rage, banged his fist against the radio, shutting it off; then, he promptly slammed his tools down on the surface of his worktable, got up out of his seat, & went over to open the front door, hoping a few deep breaths of fresh morning air would help him calm down. As he walked out onto the pavement of Walnut Avenue, bathed in the pale glow of the early-morning sunlight, Hiram could feel a little bit of his stress leaving him each time he inhaled & exhaled...but he still couldn't help but worry about his family's future, or be upset that he didn't get the inspiration or ideas he was looking for. The radio show did not give him the answers he needed so desperately to those questions rolling around inside his head, & that announcer didn't really help matters, either, rambling on about every topic except how to keep your small toy shop from going out of business. I guess I'll have to look for help from other sources, Hiram thought wearily, hoping that he would, indeed, be able to find it...

Then, on a whim, Hiram looked down at the sidewalk beneath him...& his thick red eyebrows flew up in surprise! A large supply of food was laid out neatly in a pile at his feet, with a small piece of paper on top of it. Hiram couldn't believe his luck—he & his family would have enough food to last them until the start of next week! But who had given the provisions to the Flavershams in the first place? Hoping the piece of paper would provide him with some answers, Hiram picked it up in his paw, & read aloud from the text written upon it: "To the Flavershams...This should suffice as a good meal for the next few days, yes? Whenever you run out of food, just place a black piece of construction paper in your window, & I'll gladly give you some more, yes? If you need anything else, just give me a little whistle, yes? Sincerely, Mr. P.R. Altoid." [8]

When he read this message, Hiram couldn't help but burst into a wide, broad smile...a smile that never left his face for one second, even as he bent down to pick up the food, & brought it into his house. As he was making his way through the main room, & into the kitchen, Hiram couldn't wait to prepare breakfast for himself, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha! And when Hiram began laying out the food & drinks on the counter, he was delighted with all the wonderful goodies that Mr. Altoid had provided...He quickly got to work making the morning meal, his taste buds tingling in absolute anticipation of the treats he planned to eat during the Flavershams' upcoming breakfast. Then, when Hiram was finally done, he set the table, before leaving the kitchen / dining room to enter Olivia & Arden's room. Quickly, quietly, the toymaker went over to the beds where Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Cousin Ursula were still sleeping, & proceeded to gently shake the mouselings to rouse them from their slumber. "Children...Children, wake up!" Hiram said excitedly to his daughters, nephew, & nieces, as he watched them stir from their sommelier, & rub the sleepiness out of their eyes. "Guess what we're having for breakfast?"

Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Cousin Ursula burst into wide smiles when they heard this. "Breakfast?" Olivia echoed delightedly, unable to contain her inner exhilaration.

"What breakfast?" Arden asked in an excited way.

"Where is it?" Cousin Ursula added.

"Really, Uncle Hiram?" Cousin Timmy questioned excitedly. "What'd you get?"

"Yes, Uncle Hiram!" Cousin Tina echoed eagerly. "What'd you get?"

"I hope it's bacon & eggs!" exclaimed Cousin Samantha.

"Follow me! You'll see!" Hiram told Olivia, Arden, Timmy, Tina, & Samantha, making his way out of the bedroom, as the Flaversham cousins (still dressed in their red footy pajamas, fuchsia nightgown, golden-yellow pajamas, lilac pajamas, a pair of fuchsia footy pajamas (complete with a pink collar and wrists, white booties & soles, & a fuchsia zipper), along with a fuchsia hair-bow to match, & a set of light-blue pajamas with a matching hair-bow) all crawled out of their beds, & followed him into the kitchen / dining room. Upon entering, Hiram displayed to Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Cousin Ursula all the delicious food & drinks that were now laid out on the table: small pieces of cheese, apple juice in glasses, yogurt in bowls, toast with butter & jam, & cheese pancakes dripping with butter & maple syrup...Before they even knew it, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cusin Samantha, & Cousin Ursula could feel their mouths watering! They couldn't wait to sink their teeth into the veritable smorgasbord that was their breakfast!

As they gave Hiram a great big hug & rushed over to the dining table, Olivia cried out ecstatically, "Oh, thank you so much, Daddy!" And Arden said, "We'll have a real banquet today!" [9]

"Yeah, Uncle Hiram, you seriously rock!" Cousin Timmy exclaimed joyfully, rushing over to join Olivia & her sister at the table. "We didn't know you could make a big breakfast!" Cousin Tina agreed, as she merrily rushed to join her brother. "You are the best uncle a girl could ever have, Uncle Hiram!" said Cousin Samantha, as she hugged Hiram before she kissed him on the cheek & sat down next to Olivia. Happy that the morning had turned out a lot more pleasantly than he originally expected, Hiram couldn't help but continue to smile, as he went off to take his seat by the five mouselings...but there was one thing about Cousin Timmy's compliment that puzzled him—his unusual choice of words. Rock? [10] ________________________________________ For the next half-hour, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, Cousin Ursula, & Hiram sat together at the table, happily eating their breakfast. Despite their hunger, the 7 mice made sure not to rush, & ate their food slowly, so that they could fully savor the delectable flavors of their cheese pancakes, apple juice, yogurt, toast, & pieces of cheese. As they tucked into their morning meal, none of the Flavershams engaged in the family's usual practice of sharing conversations; instead, they were concentrating on getting as much food into their stomachs as they could, for they wanted to make their new provisions hold out for as long as possible—& that meant no snacking in between meals. Hopefully, that will only be a temporary measure, Hiram thought optimistically, until we can get the toy shop back on its feet again.

After a while, the Flavershams were nearly finished with their breakfast...& Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina both looked down, eyeing the last piece of cheese that was on the table. It was a big chunk of cheddar, colored in a lush golden hue, with a smooth texture. How delectable it looked...but Cousin Timmy didn't know if there would be enough of it for five mouselings to share. Looking up at Hiram in the hopes that he could satisfactorily settle the situation, Cousin Timmy asked, "Ummm...who do you think should get the last piece of cheese, Uncle Hiram?" When his uncle (who was continuing to eat the last of his morning meal) didn't answer, Cousin Timmy looked at Cousin Tina...& saw how wide her eyes were becoming at the sight of that yummy hunk of cheddar. Feeling sorry & sympathetic for his kinsmouse, Timmy said, "I guess...maybe, you could have it, Tina, if you want it."

With that, Cousin Timmy pushed the plate with the piece of cheese in Cousin Tina's direction. Tina paused for a moment or two, wondering whether or not she should take it. On one hand (paw?), she was still a little hungry, & her brother had been so generous to offer her the last of the food...It would be foolish for her not to take it! But on the other hand, she wasn't that hungry, after all she had eaten for breakfast...& he thought that, maybe, Cousin Tina would like the piece of cheese, instead. After thinking it over for a few moments, Cousin Timmy finally decided to push the piece of cheese back to Cousin Tina, & replied, "Thanks a bunch, Tina, but I'm full. You can have it."

Stunned by her brother's reciprocal display of generosity, Cousin Tina said hesitantly, "OK..." Slowly, she reached for the piece of cheese...but just as she was about to grab it, Cousin Timmy suddenly changed his mind, & he snatched the cheddar away from her at the last minute. As he took the dairy-based snack into his paws, Cousin Timmy said with hungry desperation in his voice, "On second thought, Tina, I think I could use a little more food to fill my stomach..."

It wasn't long before Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina ended up fumbling & grappling for the piece of cheese, arguing & fighting loudly with one another, as they tumbled out of their seats, & landed on the floor. In the midst of the argument, Cousin Tina tugged on that coveted morsel of food, trying to pry it away from Cousin Timmy, as she told him angrily, "No, Timmy, you said I could have that last piece of cheese!" The ensuing scuffle between the Flaversham twins continued, as they took their fight out of the kitchen, down the hallway, & all the way into the main room of the toy shop. When they got there, not noticing the change in their surroundings, Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina kept on squabbling & playing "tug-of-war" with the piece of cheese...until Hiram finally came in, & snatched the chunk of cheddar away from both mouselings.

(CUE MUSIC: "Valse Triste", by Jean Sibelius) "Now, that's enough, both of you!" Hiram shouted irritatedly, as he took the piece of cheese, & brought it up towards himself. Holding the food up before his nephew & niece, Hiram glared down sternly at Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina, as he said scoldingly, "I don't want you two rugrats fighting! In these dark & dismal times, we all have to get along, & stick together!"

As they stood before Hiram on the toy shop floor, Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina became filled with feelings of shame & remorse for their earlier behavior, & the two mouselings both cast downcast gazes to the ground, sporting guilty frowns. Wringing his paws nervously, Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina apologized in unison, "Sorry, Uncle Hiram." Then Cousin Tina repentently said, "We were just both still hungry, &..."

"That's no excuse for you to be squabbling & arguing with each other," Hiram told Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha, continuing to look down at the children (although, by this point, his glare had softened a little). "Right now, the only thing that matters is that we should work together, & try to find a way out of this terrible situation that we face now. Do you understand, wee ones?"

"Yes, sir," Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha replied in unison, nodding their heads in affirmation.

"Good," Hiram remarked in satisfaction. Then, he broke the piece of cheese into five fifths, & handed each one to Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha. As he did this, the toymaker added, "Sometimes, when we can't agree on an issue, we need to learn how to make a compromise." The Flaversham cousins both looked up at Hiram, giving him their complete & undivided attention while they listened to his words...before finally gazing down at the pieces of cheese they held in their paws. The five mouselings slowly began eating the cheddar in savory nibbles, making sure to get their fill of every bite they took into their mouths, for it would be a few hours until they could eat again at lunchtime. All the while, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha kept Hiram's advice in mind, determined to never let it leave their heads. Who knew when they would be called upon to follow that advice, & put Hiram's words of guidance into practice________________________________________

Later that day, the Flavershams were all together in the main room, dressed in their day clothes (& looking a lot healthier, now that they'd eaten breakfast & lunch). Cousin Samantha was now wearing a pair of white panties that was set between her legs & fastened at her waist. Over her panties, she was wearing a yellow shirt with short sleeves & a pair of green overalls (with silver buttons on the straps, a pocket on the chest, & cuffs that went down to her ankles), which went well with the green hair-bow behind her left ear, yellow socks, & green sneakers (with yellow laces & yellow at the soles & toes). The 7 mice were seated at the worktable, where Olivia, Arden, Timmy, Tina, & Samantha were helping Hiram make toys, as they often liked to do on quiet afternoons like this one. Even though their business had been failing, father, daughters, & cousins continued to work diligently at their trade, hoping that they (& their toy shop) would be blessed with another stroke of good fortune, as they were on that day in August, when Mr. Altoid came to visit...As he & his loved ones worked on making the new toys that they planned to sell to their potential customers, Hiram tried to keep Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha's spirits up with cheerful conversations & festive sing-alongs, which the family eagerly engaged in throughout their long, leisurely labor. The time seemed to fly by for the Flavershams, & before they even knew it, their work was nearly finished! Soon, all they would have left to do, was to wait for customers to come around...

At one point, Hiram's ears perked up to the sound of footsteps walking down the pavement.

Turning to face Olivia (who was seated on his right), Hiram pointed yonder, & asked his daughter, "Dear, could you go over to the window, & see who's outside?" With that, Olivia got out of her chair, & scampered over to the big front window, before climbing onto the ledge, & looking outside. At first, the mouseling could only hear the footsteps echoing on the empty street of Walnut Avenue...until, a few seconds later, she began to see a figure approaching the toy shop. Said figure's appearance was made hazy & unclear by the dirty, fogged-up glass of the shop's front window, but Olivia could just make out the outline of a tall mouse with a prominent nose...& a deerstalker cap on his head! As she gazed outside the window with her paws & nose pressed against the pane, Olivia gaped in open-mouthed shock when she recognized the identity of the visitor...She barely managed to overcome her stunned silence with a single squeak of disbelief: "Basil?" Olivia's surprise grew when she saw her friend's ears perking up in response to the sound of her calling his name...& only increased even more when Basil turned around to face her! For a moment, the Great Mouse Detective seemed to return Olivia's shocked look, complete with a gaping mouth...Then, just as soon as the mice's gazes had met, Basil turned away from the window, & hurriedly began walking down the pavement, going further & further away from the toy shop...until he finally turned the corner, & disappeared down the Crown Street offshoot. As she watched Basil make his hasty exit, Olivia's earlier expression of shock gradually turned into a sad frown, as her face fell, & her ears drooped miserably. In the span of a few short seconds, so many thoughts & emotions had gone through the mouseling's mind...Never mind that Olivia was surprised to see Basil in the first place! What was he doing on Walnut Avenue? Why was he walking by the toy shop? Had he got wind of her family's situation? Had he come to check on her? Or did he just want to stop by, & say "hello"? But why did he leave when she called his name? Did he not want to help her & her family? Or, maybe, he was just feeling scared, & didn't know what to do? Had he gone to get help, or to find a way to remedy her situation? Or did he choose to ignore her? Or—oh, horror of horrors!—had he forgotten about her? Had he done the very thing that he swore he'd never do? Such a vast range of different possibilities was too difficult for Olivia to handle, & she began to feel greatly discouraged; she wasn't really sure what to make of Basil's disappearance, but she had a deep, sinking feeling that it wasn't going to lead to any changes in the lives of her & her loved ones...unless the detective came back. But would he come back? Olivia didn't know...& she dreaded to think about the answer. It was all too much for her to bear... "Who was it, dear?" Hiram asked, bringing Olivia out of her gloomy reverie...but not out of her state of sadness. Closing her eyes, Olivia shook her head sorrowfully, as she made her melancholy reply: "Nobody, Daddy." With that, she pulled away from the window, made her way down off the ledge, & went back over to join Hiram & Cousin Timmy at the worktable, now having lost sight of that one glimmer of hope that had appeared to her so briefly... ________________________________________ (CUE MUSIC: Antonio Vivaldi's "Cello Concerto In E Minor", as performed by Leonard Rosenman) Once again, the afternoon had passed without any signs of the Flavershams' business improving, & when evening came, the family closed up the toy shop at 7:00 PM, as they did every day. 2-&-½ hours had passed since then, & the building at Lower 3314 Walnut Avenue was largely quiet on this clear, starlit evening. The overhead lamp & other lights were still "burnt out", but Hiram had filled the house with the warm, cozy glow of candles & kerosene lamps; outdated though these things were, they would be able to provide some light in the toy shop & living quarters, until Hiram could pay his electric bills again. In the meantime, the toymaker, his daughter, & his nephew contented themselves to placing their newly-finished stock of toys on all the shelves & display cases, as well as the front window-ledge. Already, the 6 mice had swept all the rooms, & cleaned the place up to make it look more presentable for potential future customers. Again, the Flaversham family simply would not even consider entertaining the notion of giving into defeat, & one had to be amazed at their stout, stalwart resolution & their staunch refusal to quit the battle they were now fighting. After he helped Olivia & Cousin Timmy put the last of the new toys on the ledge of the display window, Hiram said, "Well, I think that's enough work for today, children. We've done everything we possibly can." He took a moment to wipe the sweat off his brow, before going over to take his seat at the worktable, as he added, "Now, we'll just have to see what the day will bring tomorrow." With that, Olivia & Cousin Timmy both went to sit down by Hiram, flanking the toymaker on either side. For the next few seconds, none of the Flavershams spoke to one another...until Olivia decided to ask Hiram a question that had been on her mind in recent days. "Daddy?" the mouseling said, hoping to get her father's attention. "Yes, dear?" Hiram responded, as he turned to face Olivia, who then proceeded to ask, "Are we ever going to get any customers?" Hiram paused for a moment to consider his daughter's question, thinking of how he should reply. He tried to come up with a good answer, although it wasn't the easiest thing for him to do. Finally, after a long pause in thought, Hiram replied with a shake of his head, "I don't know, Olivia. It's been over 2 months since we met Basil Of Baker Street, & so much has happened since then...Now, fancy, new toys are being invented by all these big, powerful super-companies, & no one seems to want to buy old-fashioned, paw-crafted toys like the ones we sell." When he said that, Hiram gave a deep sigh, & rested his head in his hands, now beginning to feel just a bit glum. The more he really thought about the issues that his family & business were dealing with, the less likely it seemed that things would improve...The prognosis didn't look too good for the Flavershams, & Hiram was having an increasingly-hard time trying to ignore that fact. And, to be honest, he didn't even know if he could anymore... "But, maybe, they'll...want to start buying them again...Right, Daddy?" Olivia asked with some hesitancy, but still trying to remain hopeful. "Maybe, dear," Hiram answered with a short nod of his head, but he thought he should explain to Olivia about the grim reality of the situation. "But in the meantime, we've already used up the money we earned from our earlier sales, so we really can't wait for customers to come to our toy shop—well, not for much longer, anyway—because, as you very well know, we need money from customers to keep the shop open for them in the first place...And if we don't get any customers, that means we won't earn any money." A beat of silence passed, before Cousin Timmy dared to ask the question that everyone dreaded to hear: "And if we don't earn any money...then what?"

Hiram literally struggled to make his reply to his nephew's inquiry. Wincing at the very thought of it, he answered, "Well, if that turns out to be the case, Timmy...I guess we'll have no choice...but to close up shop, &...put the place out of business."

When they heard this, Olivia & Cousin Timmy felt as though they had been hit with the force of a train; the two mouselings, completely frozen in shock, both found it hard to stomach the possibility of the bleak future that might face them. Olivia didn't want to believe that such a horrible fate would befall her & her loved ones! It couldn't! Her heart racing in panic, Olivia went over to Hiram, & crawled onto his lap, looking up into her father's eyes with a desperate gaze, as she pleaded with him, "Please, Daddy, tell me you're joking! You don't possibly mean that, right?" Hiram only looked down at his daughter with a melancholy frown, & the truth of his words quickly sank in, filling Olivia with a sense of dread that absolutely chilled her to the bone. Shaking her head rapidly, & tugging fiercely on her father's apron, Olivia begged, "You can't close the toy shop, Daddy! You just can't!" "I'm sorry about this, sweetheart," Hiram said sadly, as he gave Olivia a big hug. Then, more to himself than to her, he added, "If only there were some way to get my customers to come back..."

Now sporting a gloomy frown on her face, Olivia gently parted from the hug, slid down off her father's lap, landed feet-first on the floor, & slowly walked to her bedroom, trudging miserably with every step she took. She was feeling so many emotions, all of them of a negative nature—disheartened, distressed, depressed, downhearted, dejected...As Olivia walked down the hallway to her fursonal chambers, she could almost hear melancholy music playing in the air, providing a solemn atmosphere for what certainly felt like her funeral march...&, as far as Olivia was concerned, it may very well have been that. Only when Olivia opened the door to her room, & stepped inside, did she begin to find some peace of mind; here, in her humble sanctuary, she could always find a way to escape her troubles, no matter how big or small they were. With her books, she could be whisked away to faraway worlds, explore uncharted territory, meet all sorts of fascinating figures, embark on exciting adventures...& leave the life she knew far behind. With paper & crayons (among other art tools), she could take nothing but the most pleasant thoughts & dreams that filled her head, & make them come to a sense. With her toys & games, she could distract herself from her worries & fears in literally countless ways; the only limit was her imagination!

Now that she thought about it, Olivia decided that playing with some of her favorite toys might make her feel better, or at least help her to get her mind off her fursonal troubles. With that, she went over to one of her toy boxes, & opened it up, digging around through the contents of the container. There were so many playthings to choose from—tops, dolls, puzzles, marbles, balls, blocks, playsets, action figures, Rainbow Toys, & just about every other kind of toy you could think of!—but one in particular caught Olivia's eye. It resembled a fuchsia lily blossom, with a golden wind-up key attached to it. This is it, Olivia thought, as she pulled the toy out of her wooden chest, took it into her arms, & brought it over the large table in the center of her room. This is the only thing I want to play with right now. After stopping to stand in front of the aforementioned table, Olivia placed the wind-up blossom on its smooth, oaken surface. With a wistful look in her eyes, Olivia wound up the key on the side of the toy lily, & gazed on as the fuchsia-colored flower unfolded, opening its petals to reveal the dancing ballerina mouse she had received for her 5th birthday 3 months ago... (CUE SONG: "Please Send A Miracle [Olivia's Song]")

The doll began to dance across the surface of the table, performing a series of graceful, lifelike movements in accompaniment with the tinny song that played in her built-in music box. It was a beautiful, almost-haunting melody that carried a lot of fursonal significance for Olivia. When Olivia was just a wee baby, her father had written that song for her, & used it as a lullaby to help her go to sleep at night. Olivia came to love that song very much; sometimes, Hiram & Olivia would sing it together while working at the toy shop...Thinking about all those memories of her past—memories that she normally looked back on with pleasant fondness, but were so painful to her now!—made Olivia want to cry, just a little, but she decided not to dwell on her inner agony, & quickly thought of the perfect way to distract herself from it. Closing her eyes, Olivia began a dance of her own that strangely, yet perfectly, imitated the ballet moves of her doll. As Olivia & her beloved ballerina toy danced together in unison to the music that played, the former started performing a song fit to the melody of her dancing doll's lullaby. A beautiful voice emerged from Olivia's lips, filling her bedroom with the most heavenly sound, as she sang...

Olivia: My smile becomes a frown
As my world crashes down
My sunny skies
Are turning to gray
Don't let the darkness
Conquer my life!
Bring out the sun
And brighten my day
Not long ago,
My father was lost
You led him to me,
But for such a hefty cost
In this dark time,
I offer my plea
Please send a miracle
Answer this prayer
For me...
I wish for blessings
To fill my life
I wish that each day
Was empty of strife
I wish for hope
And happy days
I wish for fortune
And good things to come my way
Help me, dear Lord
Lessen my pain
Save me from darkness
And make my world bright again
In this bleak time,
I have only one plea
Please send a miracle
Answer this prayer
For me...
Please send a miracle
Answer this prayer
For me...

Once its lullaby had finished playing, the ballerina folded back up into a flower, & Olivia finished her dance with a deep curtsy, before going back to the table, picking up the fuchsia lily, & gently putting it back in her toy box. After shutting the lid closed, Olivia decided to get changed into her nightclothes. It was 20 minutes until bedtime, & she needed to prepare for her nightly slumber—preferably, before Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Cousin Ursula came in to put on their pajamas...

(CUE MUSIC: Adagio movement from "Piano Concerto #23", by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

Later, back in the main room of the toy shop, Hiram, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Cousin Ursula were blowing out all the candles, in order to prevent accidental fire; by the time they were done, only the kerosene lamps were left burning. Said lamps filled the mostly-dark room with a warm, peaceful glow, which seemed to give the toy shop its old atmosphere of an extent. After extinguishing the last candle with a puff of breath, Hiram told his nephew & nieces, "Well, children, I think it's time we all went to bed."

"OK, Uncle Hiram," Cousin Samantha replied, making her way towards the bedroom she, Cousin Ursula, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina shared with Olivia.

"I'll come to tuck you in about 5 minutes," Hiram told Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Cousin Ursula, as he watched them reach the end of the hallway. After he saw Arden, Timmy, Tina, Samantha, & Ursula enter the children's room, & shut the door behind him, Hiram turned his head back to take a long, hard look at the main room of the toy shop...the shop he had opened up more than a decade ago...the shop where they (& even Olivia) had spent every day making toys, selling them to customers, & seeing the delighted smiles on their faces when they left with their purchased items...the shop where he had spent part of his spare time sweeping the old cobwebs that had gathered over the last 2 months...

Hiram let out a deep sigh, as he became consumed with disconcerting thoughts of the future that probably awaited his family...his business...the dream he had tried so hard to keep alive, despite the overwhelming odds! But Hiram could no longer deny that his dream was turning into a nightmare. The toymaker now realized that he was quickly losing the battle, & unless Mother Fate managed to resolve the Flavershams' crisis in some miraculous chain of events, said battle was sure to end in defeat...for all of them. Before he left the main room to make his way towards Olivia & Arden's room, Hiram couldn't help but frown to himself, as he glanced down at the white, rectangular cardboard sign that rested between the cupboard & the old furnace pipe. He'd hoped he would never have to take it out, but after over a month of inactivity, he'd begun to keep it on paw, in case he would ever be compelled to use it. The sign said in big red letters, "Going Out Of Business". ________________________________________ Moments later, in the Flaversham mouselings' room, Cousin Timmy had changed into his golden-yellow pajamas, &, now, he was crawling into bed beside Cousin Tina, who had changed into her lilac pajamas. Arden had already changed into her fuchsia nightgown & matching hair ribbon, & now, she crawled into a fuchsia sleeping bag with a pillow (covered by a pink pillowcase) & fell asleep, Cousin Samantha had changed into her fuchsia footy pajamas & matching hair-bow, &, now, she was climbing up the ladder on the bunk bed & crawling into the top bunk while Olivia, who was dressed in her red footy pajamas & matching hair-bow, was in the bottom bunk. As she sat up in bed, the little Scotsmouse was holding another one of her many dolls—a smiling moppet mouse with blue button-eyes, yellow yarn-hair, & a pink gingham dress. Cradling the doll like a baby in her arms, Olivia said to it, "Don't worry, Miss Moppet...We're going to be OK."

"Yeah," Arden muttered bitterly, "just as long as we've still got customers."

"I'm sure some customers will see us tomorrow, Miss Moppet," Olivia assured her doll, trying to hold onto her hope...even though her voice was cracking a little as she said this. But Cousin Timmy, lost in his gloomy mood, continued to ramble on, not noticing what his words were doing to Olivia's already-fragile emotional state: "Well, that's what we've all been thinking whenever we've gotten up every morning for the last few weeks, & at the end of the day, guess what? No customers." "It's just a little rough patch, Miss Moppet!" Olivia said, though her breaking voice & watering eyes were betraying her wavering confidence. "We'll get through it...just like we always do..." She sniffled, before continuing in an increasingly-tearful voice, "The Flavershams always make it...through the best of times..."—she broke down—"...& the worst of times..." Now beginning to lose all the hope she had, Olivia finally gave into despair, & started to cry. Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha winced when they saw her doing so, then frowned guiltily, as they wrung their paws shamefully; Cousin Timmy realized too late that he should have kept his mouth shut. Soon, Hiram came into the room, & after going over to the bed to sit down beside the children, he saw his daughter crying. "Och, what's the matter, Olivia?" Hiram asked, frowning sympathetically. Olivia immediately hugged Hiram, crying against her father, as she cuddled her face in his shirtfront to hide her tears. As her body shook with each sob, Olivia wept sorrowfully, "I don't know if I can live through this, Daddy...I just can't see how we're going to get through all these bad times..." She sniffled, then wiped her nose with the back of her paw, before hugging Hiram even more tightly, as she said in a quiet whisper, "I don't see any reason for me to hold onto my hope anymore..." Hiram returned the hug, & patted Olivia's back, doing his best to comfort the disconsolate child. "There, there, Olivia," Hiram said, trying to instill faith in his daughter. "I promise you, Arden, Timmy, Tina, & Samantha we'll all get out of this mess together. And I say these words with the utmost sincerity...& confidence!" "But HOW, Daddy?" Olivia asked, looking up at her father with an uncertain gaze, as she dried her tears. "How will we make it through these bad times?" "We'll think of something, I'm sure," Hiram replied, smiling optimistically at Olivia. "You'll see, honey. Soon, things will be better for all of us. I just know it." Her earlier optimism & faith now restored to her, Olivia began to smile through the last of her tears. Hiram was right; the situation wasn't entirely hopeless, & there was still a chance of things getting better! She just had to keep her mind open to that possibility, & everything would turn out all right in the end. Unable to thank her father enough for how much his words had helped to bring her out of her earlier state of despair, Olivia hugged Hiram once again, brimming with hopeful joy. Hiram hugged his daughter back, & Cousin Timmy soon joined in the embrace. The Flavershams were now ready to take on any challenges or adversity that lay ahead, & they were determined to never quit the battle; as long as there was even the slightest chance of winning, they could overcome any obstacles in their path, defeat any foes, & reach any star in their sight. And nothing—not even poverty—would bring the Flavershams down. ________________________________________ (CUE MUSIC: Abridged version of "Saturn", from Gustav Holst's "The Planets") Not too far away from Walnut Avenue, in the Marylebone district of London, the mouse street of Baker Street (known to us humans by the same name) was empty & quiet, except for the sound of Big Ben chiming 10:00. No pedestrians or vehicles traveled down the road, which was now shrouded in a light gray fog, only permeated by the bright yellow glow of street-lamps. In the home of one Sherlock Holmes, the humans had already gone to bed...but in the small quarters below at Lower 221B Baker Street, the occupants were anything but sleepy. In the antechamber that led from the front door to the living room of Basil Of Baker Street's house, two mice—both of middle age—were standing on the floor of the landing. The first mouse was of average height for his age, with a plump, portly figure; his body was covered with tan fur, & his bald, rounded head sported wide & curvy cheeks, along with a thick, bushy pale-golden moustache. A slightly-prominent brown nose jutted out from between his kindly brown eyes (topped with thick, bushy pale-golden eyebrows), & a small pair of curvy pink ears extended from either side of his head. His pink tail was long & slender, & his stout limbs ended in paws & feet of average size. He was dressed in a rather nice-looking outfit that seemed to suit his figure quite well; a buttonless lavender-orchid jacket was worn open over his other clothing, with a pair of slimming lavender trousers covering his lower half. Underneath the jacket, his upper half was covered by a fuchsia sweater-vest & crisp white shirt-sleeves, with a blue silk bow-tie fastening the upturned wings of the latter garment's collar; a pair of neatly-polished black shoes sheltered his feet. The mouse (whose name was Dr. David Q. Dawson) paced the floor worriedly, his tail swishing about in the air, as he walked back & forth with his arms & paws clasped behind his back. No doubt, the former military mouse & army surgeon was feeling quite nervous. The second mouse—a woman—was taller than Dr. Dawson, but she also had a plump, portly figure (although it was more of a well-built type). Like Dr. Dawson, she had tan fur (with a matching wave of neatly-combed fur-hair on the top of her head), wide & curvy cheekbones, a small pair of curvy pink ears, & stout arms & legs; unlike Dr. Dawson, however, her small nose was dark-pink in color, her eyes were blue, her black eyebrows were smooth & curved, & her paws & feet were of a small & delicate nature. Her body was mainly covered in an ankle-length dark-turquoise dress (which had puffy shoulders, long sleeves that tapered out as they reached down to her wrists, starched white cuffs, & a white collar with an elliptical golden cameo pinned between its triangular flaps), with pairs of light-blue petticoats & brown nylon stockings underneath. A light-blue apron was worn over the dress, & a small pair of glasses with elliptical lenses were perched upon her nose; her head was covered by a light-blue bonnet with fringed, frilly trimmings going all around the bottom edge. Her dainty feet were covered in a snugly-fitting pair of dull, black patent-leather boots. The mouse woman was a Scottish maid / mousekeeper / cook / landlady in the employ of Basil & Dr. Dawson, who both respectfully referred to her as Mrs. Judson. The hired servant fidgeted & fussed, as she toyed with the hem of her dress, looking quite worried; she was beginning to feel increasingly ill-at-ease, as she wondered about the whereabouts of a certain mouse detective. As she glanced at the time displayed on the chiming grandfather clock in the corner of the antechamber, Mrs. Judson muttered anxiously to herself, "Oh, my goodness, it's already 10:00! Where on Earth could Basil be at this ungodly hour?" Any answer to that question was, unfortunately, beyond Dr. Dawson, who continued to pace the floor with quick, restless steps, as he responded to Mrs. Judson's fretful inquiry with one of his own: "It shouldn't take all day for a mouse—let alone a mouse as quick as Basil—to do a few simple errands, should it, Mrs. Judson?" "I should say not, Dr. Dawson!" Mrs. Judson answered, as she turned away from the clock to face her portly employer, her expression & tone-of-voice now quite agitated (& understandably so). "And believe me, I should know how long it takes a mouse to 'do a few errands'. Even with all the errands I have to do to keep this house ship-shape for you two, it usually doesn't take me more than 2 or 3 hours, if not sooner!" At this point, Dr. Dawson stopped pacing the floor, & turned around to face Mrs. Judson with an uncertain gaze, not entirely sure what to do. "Um, perhaps, then, I would suggest that one of us should go look for him," the medical mouse finally said with some hesitancy. "I agree with you, Dr. Dawson," Mrs. Judson replied resolutely, as she began walking off downstairs to enter the living room. "I'll go put on my coat, &..." Suddenly, Dr. Dawson stopped Mrs. Judson in her tracks with an additional utterance from his lips: "On second thought, Mrs. Judson, never mind." When the mousekeeper looked at him in puzzlement, he added, "I think I hear Basil's footsteps now." "And it's about time, too!" Mrs. Judson grumbled to herself, as she scuttled back up the stairs to the antechamber, where she joined Dr. Dawson at his side, & the two mice prepared to greet their long-awaited friend. It wasn't very long until the front door opened with a loud creak, revealing a tall, thin mouse standing in the threshold. His body was covered in tan fur (with light-tan markings going all across his muzzle & underbelly), & a wave of matching fur-hair adorned the top of his head. A prominent brown nose was juxtaposed between his startling green eyes (topped with a pair of smooth, curved black eyebrows), & big, curvy pink ears extended from either side of his head, with his slender limbs ending in large paws & feet. He was dressed in a rather elaborate ensemble, which started off with a simple set of white shirt-sleeves, a pair of ankle-length mesquite-brown trousers, a single-breasted brown waistcoat, & a green silk necktie. Over the shirt & waistcoat, he wore a mesquite-brown trench coat that matched the trousers, & over all this, he wore a long-sleeved brown tunic with an Inverness cape attached to it; a brown deerstalker cap adorned the top of his head, & a pair of black patent-leather shoes with white spats covered his feet. The mouse—none other than Basil Of Baker Street—had finally returned home to his fellow dwellers at Lower 221B...but Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson didn't seem to notice the haggard & upset expression on the Great Mouse Detective's face, as they both rushed over to greet him. "Oh, Mr. Basil," Mrs. Judson exclaimed happily, "glad to see you back home with us!" Mrs. Judson & Dr. Dawson proceeded to help remove Basil's deerstalker hat & Inverness cape from his furson...but only after a few seconds, did they finally see the worn, weary look that was plastered on their friend's countenance. Basil looked like he had been through Hades, but for what reason, the crimesolver's companions had yet to know. The only thing Basil said in reply was, "Thank you so very dearly, Dawson...Mrs. Judson." With slow, solemn steps, Basil walked away from the maid & medical mouse, then proceeded to make his way across the antechamber, before turning to trudge down the steps into the living room; not even bothering to change into his robe, he slumped down into his favorite red armchair, planting his feet on the floor (& ignoring the plush stool in front of him). [11] From their position behind the banister of the antechamber, Mrs. Judson & Dr. Dawson could see Basil casting a sad, half-lidded look to the ground, as he rested his head in the palms of his paws, supporting them with his elbows planted flat on his knees. The two older mice couldn't help but stare at their friend with sorrowful frowns & concerned, compassionate gazes, wondering what could be troubling Basil so much. The Great Mouse Detective was absolutely miserable, & not even the cozy fire blazing in the hearth could cheer him up. How could anything lift his spirits, after what he had seen this afternoon? In all his life, Basil had never dreamed that he would ever witness anything so awful, so dreadful, as what he had seen at Lower 3314 Walnut Avenue...As he closed his eyes, & pictured the tragic scene in his mind, Basil couldn't help but let out a sad sigh at the unpleasant memory of it, sinking his head in despair. He felt as though the entire weight of the world was on his shoulders, & he didn't think there was any way he could ease himself of his heavy burden... Unbeknownst to Basil, Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson walked into the living room, going over to stand on either side of their companion. The two older mice were both smiling, & trying to act as though they didn't sense anything was wrong. "So, did your errands go today, Basil?" Dr. Dawson asked in a friendly, cheerful manner. "Ohh, they weren't too shabby, I suppose," Basil replied in a dead-pan tone...& not sounding very convincing to either Dr. Dawson or Mrs. Judson. "And how was your day, may I ask?" "Oh, well, I'd say my day was quite fine," Dr. Dawson answered, still smiling. "Yes, same here, Mr. Basil," Mrs. Judson assented pleasantly, nodding her head in agreement. "That's good to know," Basil replied in a flat monotone, still sporting that expression of heartfelt misery. Then came an awkward pause, & for the next few seconds, neither Basil, Mrs. Judson, or Dr. Dawson said anything. Finally, however, Dr. Dawson decided to break the silence, & with great delicacy, the portly physician asked Basil, " appear to be looking...rather down today, Basil. Anything wrong?" Basil let out another deep sigh, before shaking his head, as he answered, "Oh, it's all just related to fursonal trifles, Dawson. It's nothing to worry about, really." Ordinarily, I'm a very honest mouse, but I hope you will forgive me for fudging the truth—just this once. I don't want you & Mrs. Judson to have to share my awful burden... But Mrs. Judson & Dr. Dawson weren't entirely sure that Basil was telling them the whole truth, & Mrs. Judson tried to coax Basil to reveal more than he was letting on. "Oh, no, Mr. Basil," the mousekeeper said with a bit of eagerness in her Scottish brogue, "we're interested in hearing what you have to say! Do tell us!" Basil paused, not sure whether he should tell Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson about what he had seen that afternoon...but, finally, he decided that it probably wouldn't hurt all that much to talk about it—certainly not as much as it would hurt to do the opposite, for if he kept quiet about what he had witnessed, he'd never be able to do anything about it! Hesitantly, Basil said in response, "Well, if you must has to do with the Flavershams." "The Flavershams?" Dr. Dawson blurted out, surprised to hear that name coming out of Basil's mouth again, after all the long weeks that had passed since that fateful night in July... "Quite right, Dawson," Basil replied, reaching into his trenchcoat pocket to pull out a Polaroid photograph, which he brought up for himself to see. "Quite right..." Then, Basil began to stare at the black-&-white picture with a wistful expression on his face, & Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson leaned in to take a closer look at it. Sure enough, there was little Olivia Flaversham & her father, along with several other rodents (no doubt, their relatives & friends in Mouse Scotland that they had told them about in the days before their departure from Mouse London). The picture had been taken at a carnival on the outskirts of Mouse Edinburgh—Basil could tell that from the Ferris wheel & other rides seen in the background—& judging by the smiles on everyone's faces, it certainly looked like the Flaversham family & their friends were having a good time...just living out a happy, carefree existence. That was the kind of life Basil wanted for his old chums...& as warm memories of the past began to flood his mind, Basil's face formed a fond smile. "Has it been that long, Dawson?" the detective asked his comrade, continuing to gaze down at the picture in his paw with that expression of affectionate reminiscence. "Eh?" Dr. Dawson muttered in puzzlement, not quite understanding what Basil meant by that question. "Since we first met the Flavershams," Basil added, hoping to clear up any confusion. "Er, not that long, actually," Dr. Dawson replied. "I'd say a little over 2 months." "I believe you're right, Dawson," Basil said, nodding his head, as the sad frown returned to his face. "That would be an accurate estimate." "Yes..." Dr. Dawson muttered. "But what is it about the Flavershams that's troubling you so much?" "Well, perhaps, it's best if I start at the beginning," Basil replied, & after taking a moment to clear his throat, he began relating his tale: "You see, Dawson, after going out to do my errands & stopping for a late lunch on the way home, I happened to pass by the Flavershams' toy shop while making my way down Walnut Avenue. The place appeared to be in pretty bad shape. I thought they had not yet come back from Scotland, but then, I heard a familiar voice squeaking my name. I turned around, & I saw little Olivia standing in the window, looking at me..." A fretful sigh passed from Basil's lips, & he continued, becoming increasingly upset as he spoke: "You should have seen her, Dawson. I didn't look at Olivia for very long, but I noticed that she was pale & sickly-looking. Her clothes were torn & dirty. Her eyes were sunken & circled from lack of sleep...I could tell that she & her family had not only returned to Mouse London & reopened the toy shop, but were also under extreme duress, because..."—a pause for breath—"...from what my deduction powers told me, when I saw the condition of Olivia & the toy shop in general, it appears as though the Flavershams are going bankrupt. No one's coming to buy their toys anymore—I presume due to the recent rise in popularity of toys from the new super-companies. And it's not just the Flavershams who are suffering, but other small-business toymakers, as well." Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson could hardly believe their ears! During all the time that had passed up until today, they had no idea that all of this was happening to their friends! "The Flavershams...are going bankrupt?" Dr. Dawson ejaculated, unable to hide his shock at hearing the news. "Oh, the poor dears!" Mrs. Judson said sorrowfully, overcome by a wave of compassion for the suffering toymaker & his daughter. "That's terrible!" "Yes, it is indeed terrible, Mrs. Judson...far too terrible for me to bear," Basil remarked, now looking even more melancholy than he had earlier. "That's why I started to run away when I heard Olivia calling my name...& why I didn't come back until much later than I originally intended." After another pause for breath, Basil lamented, "I want so much to help the Flavershams. But I have no children of my own that could serve as customers, & I don't really know anyone to whom I could recommend the Flavershams' services...yet, in their current crisis, customers are precisely the thing the Flavershams need most!" Basil let out another sigh, then shook his head worriedly, as he asked, "What am I to do? How can I possibly assist the Flavershams in their dilemma?" "Basil, don't worry!" Dr. Dawson said, trying to encourage his comrade. "You're a smart mouse! I'm sure you can figure it out!" (CUE SONG: "How Can I Turn Away?") But Basil couldn't contain his emotions any longer; so many thoughts were whirling through his mind, & he had to get them off his chest, or else, he would go insane from all his stress & inner turmoil. "Not very long ago, my life was changed forevermore," Basil began. "I came upon the first mouse that I'd ever cared for..." Then, the detective started to sing about all the issues he was having with Olivia (& her fursonal troubles)... That child has warmed my bitter soul And softened my harsh heart! Why did she have to leave & make us spend Our lonely lives apart? The lively little light is gone Her frisky flame is snuffed To wish in vain for her dear company Is simply not enough! Oh, how I miss that girl And her happy, shining face! How I wish that she would come And fill this empty space! But now her world is gone As her blue skies turn to gray And her hope is all but lost How can I turn away? Dr. Dawson quickly realized how much Basil's experiences with Olivia Flaversham had changed him, altering his fursonality for the better, by helping him become a more sensitive & caring rodent (among other things). He realized how much Basil missed Olivia's company—indeed, the changes in his attitude towards her had become all-too-apparent by now—& how lonely & miserable he felt without her. He also realized how desperately Basil wanted to help the Flavershams, & he assured him that he could do so... You mustn't ever give up hope, For all is not in vain! There is a way to dry her tears away And rid her of her pain! It only takes a spark of hope, Just one flame of belief, For you to help the dear old Flavershams And end their days of grief Don't give into despair! There is something you can do To sweep away the clouds And make the sun shine through Though your mind is plagued with doubt, Place your trust in what I say You can surely save the girl! You can never turn away Despite Dr. Dawson's attempts to comfort & console Basil, the detective was in despair over how he should handle the situation, & he made no attempt to hide this... But, Dawson, don't you understand That she's facing bankruptcy? With each moment, she comes closer To the brink of poverty! I've no children of my own To support my dear old friends Yet I yearn to ease their suffering And make their troubles end! How can I turn away From a family in need? I vowed I would not forget the girl, And I shall keep that creed! But how can I help them out? Just what choices should I make? How am I to bring them aid? Just what chances should I take? What's the right thing I can do? Should I let her stay with me? Or should I ignore the child And let her die in poverty? (CUE MUSIC: Orchestral version of "The Last Spring", by Edvard Grieg) "Well, I certainly wouldn't recommend the latter choice," Dr. Dawson replied. "Perhaps, under the circumstances, it would be a good idea for us to allow the Flavershams to take lodgings with us at our home." Almost immediately, the lachrymose frown left Basil's face, & a bright, broad smile formed in its place. "Then that's precisely what we shall do, Dawson!" Basil exclaimed, his tone-of-voice now filled with the same newfound energy & optimism that radiated from his features. After getting up out of his chair, Basil began walking away from Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson, putting on his invertness cape & deerstalker cap as he said, "The Flavershams are dear friends to us. If they're going to make it through their difficult situation, they're going to need a lot of help. And I know just how to give it to them!" Once he had adjusted his cap (now resting upon his head), Basil turned to make his way towards the staircase leading up to the second floor of his house, beckoning for Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson to follow him into his fursonal study room. The 2 older mice both promptly scurried after Basil, who proceeded to squeeze through a narrow door, which had been carved into the black pipe in the northeast corner of the living room. Inside the pipe, previous occupants had installed a spiral staircase that led all the way up to the top, where a sliding trapdoor opened up to allow entry into the second-floor hallway. [12] Upon squeezing through the pipe door, Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson all made their way up the stairs to the trapdoor, & after opening it up, they climbed out into the second-story corridor, before walking into Basil's study room (which was the first room on the east side of the hallway). As soon as the 3 mice had all reached their destination, Basil went back to shut the door, before making his way to the large writing desk that stood against the south wall of the room. Upon taking his seat in the lavender easy-chair that rested in front of the desk, Basil reached a paw towards one of the little bureaus of drawers & cubby-holes that lay upon the table surface. After rooting around in one particular drawer, he pulled out a piece of blank paper, then laid it down in front of him, before grabbing a fountain pen from a small jar, & beginning to write upon the aforementioned sheet of paper. As Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson watched from their standing positions behind Basil, their friend busily engaged in writing what turned out to be a letter; when he was done with this task, he carefully folded up said letter, before placing it in an envelope, & licking the seal on the back to close it. Then, after writing the Flavershams' address on the front of the envelope, Basil placed a postage stamp in the upper-right-hand corner of it, before smiling in satisfaction as he placed the finished letter on his desk. "There!" Basil said pleasantly. "Phase One of 'Operation: Flavershams' is officially complete!" Then, the detective turned to face Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes & an eager smile, as he added, "Now, on to Phase Two!" "Which would be...?" Dr. Dawson asked quizzically. "The answer to that is quite elementary, my dear Dawson," Basil replied. "Take a few extra weeks to prepare the house for their arrival." "Oh, that shouldn't be too difficult," Mrs. Judson remarked optimistically. "Aside from the study room, your room, my room, & Basil's room, all the other rooms on the second & third floors are empty, so we can convert them into living spaces for the Flavershams, & any relatives they might want to bring along with them..." [13] "But in addition to that," Dr. Dawson added, "I think we should also make the living room look, umm...a little bit nicer, you know? Now that you've moved all your scientific equipment & other things into the study room, the sitting area's awfully bare, & I feel that it could use a lot more furniture & decorations...maybe even one of those nice televisions they've been making lately..." "And while you're on the subject of remodeling the first floor, Dr. Dawson," said Mrs. Judson, "I think we also need to redo the wallpaper. It's gotten rather pale & dull over the years...Oh, & we ought to make a doorway leading into the dining room from the living room, so others won't have to go through the kitchen to get to it. [14] And we need to make a more accessible stairway to the second floor—it's such a pain in the tail to have to squeeze through that narrow door in the pipe, let alone to have to climb all those stairs, & open that second door at the top that goes into the second-floor hallway...Ah, & I just got another idea, too—we should buy a van!" "Don't worry, Mrs. Judson," Basil told the mousekeeper, trying to hold back a chuckle, as he playfully waved his paw at her. "Everything will be taken care of in due course. I think that October 24..."—he picked up his pen, & marked the appropriate date on his calendar that hung upon the wall above his desk—"...will be a suitable deadline for us to have everything ready for the Flavershams & their relatives." "Good idea, Basil! We can start after breakfast tomorrow," Dr. Dawson suggested. "I'll call the carpenters, the carpet-layers, the painters, the plumbers, the woodworkers, the wallpaper mice, & the interior decorators!" "And I'll pay a visit to Abigail's Antiques Store, Ferb's Furniture Emporium, & Joe Tailor's Business on Walnut Avenue," said Mrs. Judson. "If I have enough time, I'll also stop at Veronica's Electronica Store on the way home, & I'll continue to visit various stores throughout the next month. I want to make sure that we're not missing anything during our period of preparation!" "It's settled, then!" Basil declared, as he rose out of his seat, & went over to open the door, so he could make his exit. "We'll get up for breakfast & morning routines at 7:00 AM, & Phase Two of 'Operation: Flavershams' will begin an hour later, at 8:00 sharp!" "All right, Basil!" Dr. Dawson said, as he & Mrs. Judson followed the detective out of the study room. "It's a deal!" After bidding each other "goodnight", Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson retreated into their respective bedrooms to retire for the evening. After changing into his pajamas & robe, & setting his alarm clock for 7:00 AM, Basil crawled into his canopy bed, & curled up under the covers, resting his head on the soft pillow, as thoughts of the days ahead flooded his mind. It was going to be a busy 4 weeks, that was for certain...but Basil looked forward to every moment of it! [15] ________________________________________ Friday, October 23, 1897 Dense mist covered the East End of London. The infamous "bad side" of England's great city was nearly deserted at this hour of the evening, save for the strumpets & street gangs that lurked the lanes, looking for people (or rodents) to serve & stalk. But the hookers & the hoodlums weren't the only ones that were up this late at night. Not too far away from the docks, in the depths of a dark, dank sewer lair, the sounds of ripping fabric, breaking glass, shuffling papers, & various other noises could be heard echoing throughout the vast halls... Inside one particular barrel-building, in a lavishly-decorated throne room, a lonely figure was standing in the middle of the chamber. The figure—a handsome-looking rat at the age of 17—was dressed in kingly purple robes from head to toe, with a rainbow of gleaming medals & ribbons adorning the lapels of his outfit, golden epaulets placed on top of his broad shoulders, a long fuschia cape (decorated with ermine-style trimmings & golden tassel-fringes) flowing down the length of his back, a purple-&-golden crown covering his neatly-combed black hair, & a long sword & scabbard dangling from the "left" side of his glimmering golden belt (which had a buckle that was decorated with a large "R", & flanked by two large blue-topaz gems). Underneath his royal attire, he wore a slimming pair of black trousers (held up by two suspenders), a pinstriped white shirt with an upturned collar, & a silk cravat decorated with large lavender & melon-orange stripes; white silk gloves covered his delicate paws with long fingers, while his not-so-delicate feet mysteriously managed to fit into a pair of super-tiny black boots. [16] Though much of his body was concealed by his clothing, the figure was covered in grayish-brown fur, & a gray five-o'clock shadow adorned his chin & muzzle. A prominent dark-pink nose jutted out from his face, & his theatrical-looking black eyebrows furrowed in fury over his golden eyes, which blazed with such rage & anger as he'd never felt before in his entire life...The figure did have a full name, but he preferred to be called only by the first part of his infamous moniker: Ratigan. [17] But wait a minute, you're probably wondering, didn't Ratigan die in the fight on Big Ben? Well, the answer may come as a surprise to you, but rest assured that there is a perfectly logical explanation for it... You see, dear readers, Ratigan did NOT perish in the fall from London's great clock. As luck would have it, two of his higher-order bat-thugs, Eunice Karlin & Shellington Batly, were out on patrol that evening, & started to pass by Big Ben...just as their boss was falling from the hour hand. Eunice & Shellington managed to catch Ratigan (preventing him from falling to his death), & transported him to safety on the riverbank, where he (& Fidget) waited until Eunice & Shellington found the other thugs (who had escaped from the palace grounds, along with Felicia), told them what happened, & led them over to Ratigan & Fidget, who were then escorted back to the sewer lair. After he & Fidget had taken a few weeks to recover from their ordeals (both physical & emotional), Ratigan unexpectedly announced that he was permanently relieving his thugs of their duties, & banished them all from the hideout. [18] Where the minions went or what they were doing now, Ratigan didn't know...&, quite frankly, he didn't care. As far as Ratigan was concerned, his former lackeys (aside from Fidget & a few certain others of a not-so-malicious nature) could rot in Hades! He had no desire to ever see them again, or associate with their kind. And he also had no desire to look back on those dark days in his life, that long period of 8 years where he & his minions brought fear & terror to Mouse London...the part of Ratigan's life that he had begun to hate most. A tempest of all sorts of emotions was raging furiously inside Ratigan—anger, pain, frustration, agony, anguish, sorrow, & so on—& he simply couldn't contain said emotions. Whatever Ratigan was feeling, he let it out in screams, shouts, & minced oaths, as he beat the walls, stomped the floor, smashed his mirrors, tore up old papers & photos, toppled objects over, threw various items around, & did whatever he could to destroy or damage the things that reminded him of his past...the past that he was trying so hard to forget. "Gosh-darn this...friggin', freakin', frackin', no-good...JUNK! Doggone, bloody, blasted...HOOHAH & HULLABALOO!" While Ratigan was ranting & raving in all his blind fury, he did not notice the clip-clop, thud, clip-clop, thud sound that echoed throughout the barrel-throne room as a peg-legged bat walked through the doorway. The bat was covered in gray fur, with tall reddish-pink ears (the "right" one had a notch in it), average-sized wings with pink webbing (the "left" one was broken), & circular red markings surrounding his big yellow eyes. The short, scrawny little fellow was dressed in a sleeveless blue-violet sweater, a form-fitting pair of black trousers, a purple-&-lavender-striped scarf with fringed edges, a floppy dark-gray shoe that covered his only foot, & a black English cap on top of his head. The bat was none other than Fidget, one of Ratigan's former thugs...& the only minion who had been allowed to stay with Ratigan at the hideout when all the others were fired. Although you probably could have guessed this earlier, Fidget also survived his own fall into the Thames River; after coming back up to the surface of the stream, he'd found a floating piece of driftwood, & used it to swim over to the Thames' west bank, where he soon met up with Ratigan after he had been left there by Eunice & Shellington Batly. Even though Fidget couldn't help but feel angry at Ratigan for throwing him out of his dirigible (& leaving him to nearly drown), his sense of loyalty to his boss proved to be far more powerful, for Ratigan had been one of the few rodents to show some sort of kindness & generosity to Fidget in his 15 years of life. He had never once been mean to Fidget because of his species, or his appearance, or his handicaps; he had been the first to offer him decent food, clothing, & shelter when he was wandering the streets, making a meager living as a hit-bat for hire. Even if he did not always treat Fidget in a kindly manner, Ratigan had still done so much for the young bat, & because of this, Fidget honestly felt that he couldn't turn his back on his employer—otherwise, aside from a few old friends he had from his days working in a sweatshop factory, he had no one to turn to. Without Fidget, Ratigan would probably have been nothing, & without Ratigan, Fidget was nothing. Thus, he'd stayed at the rat's side in the two months that had passed since their greatest defeat by Basil Of Baker Street, keeping him company on the riverbank while they waited for the other thugs to come take them home, trying to comfort him & cheer him up while they recovered from their injuries, promising to stick with him through thick & thin, no matter what... Fidget was suddenly brought out of his thoughtful reverie, however, when he saw Ratigan grab a chair, & throw it in his direction with a yell of "Argh...Fudge this cheese-sucking tripe!" Thankfully, the chair hit the wall instead, & once he took a moment to recover from his shock after barely missing a nasty collision with the piece of furniture, Fidget continued to watch Ratigan rant & rave for a few minutes longer, trashing & smashing & crashing & bashing things all the while. Then, when a moment or two of silence had passed, Fidget finally spoke up. "Uhhh...boss...are you feelin' OK?" he asked timidly. "Fidget," Ratigan replied in an exasperated tone, "I am not your boss anymore. For the last time, call me Ratigan!" "OK, Ratigan," Fidget said, making sure to stress the name, before asking again, "Like I said, are you feelin' OK?" Having now calmed down a bit, Ratigan went over to his old throne in the back of the room, & slumped down in it as he answered (with some irritation still heard in his voice), "As a matter of fact,, I am NOT!" Taking a few steps further into the throne room, Fidget asked in concern, "Well, what's da matter, boss..."—he corrected himself—"...uh, Ratigan?" Closing his eyes wearily, Ratigan placed his head in his gloved paws, & began to massage his forehead, as he replied, "As you know, Fidget, I have been struggling to deal with fursonal issues lately...mainly pertaining to my inner conflict on certain moral standards." Even though he didn't always do so well with big words, Fidget knew exactly what Ratigan was talking about. "Oh, I see," he remarked. "You're still thinking about reforming?" "I am currently considering the option, now that you mention it," Ratigan responded. "You mean it?" Fidget asked, to which Ratigan replied with a nod of his head, "Yes...Yes, I do, Fidget." (CUE SONG: "Is It Worth It?") "Wow..." Fidget marveled, unable to stop a big smile of astonishment from appearing on his face. "Two months since Basil Of Baker Street kicked your butt, & already, you wanna go ahead & reform?" "Hmm, yeah," Ratigan said, "that's about the size of it..." "Uh, OK," Fidget replied. At this point, he was about to let the matter drop, but then a question struck him: "But tell me again, Ratigan...Why exactly is it that you wanna reform?" "Fidget, you should already know the answer that question by now," Ratigan answered, as he got up out of his throne, & went over to his harp in the corner of the barrel-throne room. After sitting down in the little plush seat beside the aforementioned harp, Ratigan placed his fingers upon the strings, & strummed a gentle, but sad, melody upon them, as he began to sing... For many dark & gruesome years, I was the object of others' fears I brought endless pain & agony To all of my poor peers I've been feeling guilt & shame For all that I've been blamed... How I want to leave my past behind And clear my poisoned name! I'm so sick & tired of this vice That I once thought to be so nice! I'm heck-bent on changing my cruel ways And warming my heart of ice! There's no need to live a life of wrong, And that's why I sing to you this song! Surely, there's a place of good & just Where I truly can belong! "But why are you worrying so much about it?" Fidget questioned. "You don't understand, Fidget!" Ratigan cried, shaking his head furiously as his expression became tormented. "You just don't understand!" At this point, he got off of his harp seat, & began pacing the room, as his song became more & more agitated... Tell me, what is there for me to gain When I murder, rob, & feign? All these atrocious acts I've done, Are they worth the scorn & pain? Drowning orphans & widows, Pilfering jewelry & dough, Heartlessly harming poor rodents like us, Is it all worth it? NO! Upon saying that, Ratigan sank dramatically to his knees, closing his eyes & tilting his head up towards the heavens, as he let his arms fall down at his sides with a grand flourish. (CUE MUSIC: "Dance Of The Sylphs", from Hector Berlioz's "Harold In Italy") After a moment or two, Fidget hobbled closer to Ratigan, who then opened his eyes, & looked down to face the bat as he said, "And that, you see, is why I want to reform." Fidget nodded his head in understanding...before raising a webbed hand in the air, as he piped up, "Say, Ratigan...can I reform, too?" The look on Ratigan's face soon changed, & an amused smirk adorned his countenance. "If you really want to, Fidget," he replied, "I suppose there's no reason why you can't." "Okie-doke, then!" Fidget said, as he burst into a wide grin. Hopping into Ratigan's arms (& making him "oof" a little), Fidget wrapped his wings in a friendly manner around the rat's neck, smiling happily as he added, "Count me in, bestest buddy!" Ratigan couldn't help but crack a cheerful, toothy smile in return. "Of course, Fidget...Certainly," he said amiably, before gently lifting Fidget's cap up from his head, & tousling his fur-hair affectionately. In the weeks that had passed since the day of the Diamond Jubilee, Ratigan & Fidget had come to share a brotherly bond with one another, both deciding to look out for each other, help each other, aid & abet each other, support each other, & care for each other, no matter what events or circumstances came up in life. Together, they were bound & determined to travel down the straight & narrow path leading to a better, much more fulfilling existence...for both of them. And together, they were going to turn over new leaves, change their wicked ways, & change for the better, no matter what society thought of them! "And our first step on the road to redemption," Ratigan said jovially, "is to make peace with those who we once regarded as enemies! One can't truly reform unless he...or she...learns how to forgive & forget!" "But who should we start with?" inquired Fidget. "Why, none other than Basil Of Baker Street!" Ratigan replied. "And, perhaps, we should also make peace with that doctor mouse, & Basil's mousekeeper..." "What about da Flavershams?" asked Fidget. "Yes, yes," Ratigan said with a nod of his head, "we can make peace with them, as well! In fact, I think we very well should...As soon as we've talked to Basil & the others, we'll pay a visit to Mr. Flaversham & his daughter." "Good idea, Ratigan!" Fidget commented, as the smile on his face widened. "We can go see dem all tomorrow." "Like killing—er, bonking—two birds with one stone, eh?" Ratigan quipped with a playful chuckle. Fidget couldn't help but laugh a little, as well, before he looked up at Ratigan with an alert gaze & perked ears, listening attentively to his boss-turned-friend as he instructed, "Well, let's go see if we can gather up a few peace offerings for our soon-to-be-comrades, & we'll retire for the evening. Tomorrow, we'll get up at 7:00, then have breakfast, tend to our usual morning routines, pack up all our things, & move out of this wretched place for good! And, of course, we'll go to Baker Street & Walnut Avenue to make peace with certain rodents. Maybe, Basil & his friends will be willing to set aside an extra room for us at their house..." "All righty, den!" Fidget said, nodding his head in affirmation. "We got tomorrow all planned out!" "Let's hope our endeavors will not be in vain," Ratigan said, shaking Fidget's hand. With that, the two got up, then walked out of the barrel-throne room together, before heading to the room they would be sharing in the building next door. Tomorrow was certainly going to be a busy day for Ratigan & Fidget...but they looked forward to every second of it! ________________________________________ Saturday, October 24, 1897 A new day was dawning over Mouse London, & the sun was just beginning to rise over Baker Street. Gradually, as it ascended further & further into the sky, it filled the street & the houses upon it with its warm, cheerful, golden glow. Birds started to chirp & sing, greeting the new morning with merry melodies & cheery whistling, as the rodent & human occupants of every building stirred from their sleep, & began to prepare for the busy day that awaited them. The same could definitely be said for the residents of the newly-refurbished & remodeled house at Lower 221B Baker Street. The living room of Basil's house had been cleaned up considerably, & one could hardly tell it had once been messy & cluttered. There was still the fireplace with the golden grate (along with the same knick-knacks adorning the mantle), & there was still the blue rug & the small table with the lamp on it. But Basil's red chair & Dr. Dawson's green chair had been joined by a large purple couch, a fuschia chaise lounge, a pink ottoman, a beige recliner, a navy-blue armchair, & an azure loveseat, all of which were positioned in different spots of the living room. A lush dark-green carpet spread across the wooden floor. On the walls were various paintings of flowers, landscapes, & other things. A humble, but nice-looking, light fixture dangled from the ceiling. A big-screen TV lay across the room on the west wall, opposite of the fireplace, rug, & two chairs. On the same wall where the TV was, a telephone & answering machine rested on top of a small dresser-table in the southwest corner of the room, next to a large oval mirror. The door that led to the kitchen was on the north wall, near the northwest corner of the living room. On the same wall, just to the right of the new dining-room door, was the equally-new staircase that now led to the second story of the house; the staircase (which had a wooden banister, as well as a door on the side that led to the basement level below) took up all of the northeast area of the living room, as it was in the place where the large pipe used to be. And funny we should mention the stairway at this point, for Basil Of Baker Street (dressed in his robe, sleep-trousers, necktie, shirt, & slippers) was now briskly dashing down the steps to enter the living room, while Dr. Dawson (dressed in lavender pinstripe pajamas & a matching nightcap) & Mrs. Judson (dressed in her maid's attire) followed him. As he descended the stairwell, clutching the Flavershams' letter in his paws, Basil exclaimed happily, "Come along, Mrs. Judson! Dawson! The mailmouse is due to arrive in just a few seconds! Today's the day that the Flavershams begin life anew!" Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson scurried through the living room, & up the small staircase leading to the antechamber...which was not significantly different from how it appeared earlier, although it had still gone through some changes during the "extreme makeover" of Basil's house. The floor of the antechamber (& the staircase) was now draped in the same dark-green carpet as the living room, & the grandfather clock (but not the bureau of dresser-drawers) was still placed in the corner of the aforementioned antechamber. Beautiful red curtains with golden draw-tassels draped down the sides of the great circle window, & at the part of the oaken banister between the door & steps to the living room. The bench-like seat below the glass window had been reupholstered, & it was now covered in forest-green velvet (but still had the little books on the side of it). The walls of the antechamber (as well as the living room) were decorated with chartreuse-&-ruby-striped wallpaper. And, of course, there was the front door, which Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson approached to make their way outside. In the front of Basil's house, the hollow of overhanging bricks that led to the entrance had been transformed to a giant carport / porch. The floor was made of wooden planks, & an automobile ramp (made of the same material as the floor of the porch) led up to the carport from the driveway, as a small set of three cement stairs stood beside it. A stained-glass window in various shades of green (with a red glass "B" in the center) arched over the oaken door. A small oil lamp in a sconce was positioned by said door, & an oval-shaped bronze plate (which said "221 ½" in gold writing) rested below it. [19] At the foot of the door (which had a golden mail slot & doorknob on it), a dark-turquoise welcome mat was laid out on the ground. Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson quickly opened the front door, & rushed out onto the porch, but Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson stayed behind to watch Basil, as he dashed down the front steps, through the front yard, & onto the pavement. A mailmouse in blue was walking down the sidewalk of Baker Street, making his morning rounds of delivering mail, as he whistled a merry tune. Suddenly, he opened his eyes, surprised to see a certain mouse detective approaching him. Basil swiftly darted in front of the mailmouse's way to stop him, before holding up a skinny paw, & waving the Flavershams' letter back & forth in the air, as he said, "Excuse me, Mr. Mailmouse. I need you to deliver something for me." Basil handed the Flavershams' letter to the mailmouse, who took the envelope into his paws, & stared at it thoughtfully. "Take this to Hiram Flaversham," Basil instructed. "He lives on Lower 3314 Walnut Avenue, at Flaversham's Toy Shop. [20] Give the letter to him post-haste, & next time you're there, do drop your children by to purchase some toys, would you?" "Of course, Mr. Basil!" the mailmouse replied cheerfully, nodding his head in affirmation. After taking the letter, & tipping his hat to Basil, the courier continued walking down the pavement, starting off on his journey to Walnut Avenue. As he watched the mailmouse depart, Basil waved "goodbye" to him, & shouted happily, "God bless you, good sir! And give my regards to Olivia Flaversham!" Then, sporting a broad smile, Basil turned to walk back through the front yard, onto the porch, & into the house, with Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson following him inside. (CUE SONG: "Final Medley") After watching the 2 older mice leave for their upstairs quarters, Basil stayed inside the antechamber, placing his paw on the front door, & pushing back to close it. Then, Basil leaned against the shut porte, closing his eyes in pleasant reverie, as the smile on his face widened. Soon, the mailmouse would deliver the detective's letter to the Flavershams, & if Basil's friends accepted his offer—which he had no doubt they would—all their fursonal troubles would be over! Basil couldn't help but beam brightly at the prospects of a better future for the Flavershams, as thoughts of hope & sunny optimism filled his head... Oh, darling little girl, Joy awaits you on this day! You'll no longer have to feel Any sadness or dismay Your rainbow will shine through All the clouds that were once gray Sunshine will fill your life And never go away Meanwhile, in a certain sewer lair on the other side of town, Ratigan & Fidget were making their final preparations for their journey to Baker Street (& Walnut Avenue). The two rodents, already dressed for the day, were packing their possessions into parcels & suitcases, which they intended to carry with them throughout the duration of their trip. The gift-wrapped baskets containing the presents for Basil, Dr. Dawson, Mrs. Judson, & the Flavershams rested on the mattress of Ratigan's bed, patiently waiting to be given to their recipients. And, of course, Ratigan & Fidget were eagerly looking forward to making peace with the fursons they had wronged, in addition to beginning their new lives as reformed, law-abiding members of rodent society! Ratigan couldn't help but smile, as he thought of the wonderful days that lay ahead for him...& his fellow Mouse Londoners... There is much I'm sure that I will gain When I end my cruel & callous reign All the kindly deeds I hope to do, They're all worth my stress & strain Meanwhile, at a certain building on Walnut Avenue, Olivia Flaversham (dressed in her red footy pajamas & matching hair-bow) had just woken up from the previous night's slumber, & she was now standing on the floor of her bedroom, having stretched her arms after rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. Upon noticing that her fursonal chambers were still filled with shadows, Olivia quickly went back over to her bed, crawled onto the mattress (while being careful not to wake the still-sleeping Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha), & extended her paws toward either side of her window, opening the curtains to let in the warm, cheery sunlight. Almost instantly, the sun's golden rays illuminated the interior of the room, providing a boost to Olivia's spirits, as a happy smile formed on the mouseling's face, which began to radiate with an optimistic glow. Today was the day, Olivia felt, that things would take a turn for the better; she had a feeling that something good was coming her way... Oh, what a bright, beautiful day! My trials will end, And things will be all right again Soon the dark clouds will drift away Surely, a miracle Is bound to happen today! Then, Basil, Ratigan, & Olivia began to express their thoughts aloud; even though they were many mouse miles apart, their very voices seemed to resonate together in an unchained melody, as they sang... Sweet little child, in just a while (Citizens dear, have no more fear) [Now there's no need for my heart to bleed] Your trials will end & your world will be bright again (Darkness will leave & your streets will be safe again) [All of my sorrow, I'm sure I won't feel again] Suffer no more, child I adore (Let no more strife conquer your life) [I'll no longer dwell in a desolate hell] You'll have your miracle, things will be better for you (Oh, what a miracle that I changed my life for you) [This is the miracle God has provided for me!] Fortune could be such a fickle mistress, with her capricious habit of influencing circumstances or events to suit her whims & wishes. A butterfly would flap its wings on a sunny day in China, & rain would end up falling in New York that same afternoon. [21] A furson who was late to work, might have an opportunity to help a stranger in need. One might stop for lunch at a restaurant, & end up chatting with a favorite celebrity! [22] But no one in all the mouse world could ever have imagined the marvelous & magnificent events that would result from these twists & turns of fate... ________________________________________

[1] The prophecy is also a featured theme / plot device in the film version of GMD 2. (BTW, my script for the movie version of the sequel will soon be finished. If you're interested in looking at it, feel free to ask me for a copy, & I'll be happy to E-mail it to you!)

[2] Those of you who are familiar with a certain director's films will notice that I have taken a Kubrickian route with selecting pieces of classical music as score for the fanfiction & film versions of GMD 2. My inspiration for that largely came from the soundtracks for "A Clockwork Orange", "The Shining", & "Barry Lyndon", along with a bit of "2001: A Space Odyssey" & "Eyes Wide Shut".

[3] Sophie will make fursonal appearances in Chapters 7 & 9 of the fanfic.

[4] In the late 1880's & early 1890's, Queen Mousetoria passed a series of child-labor laws & other mandates meant to induce industrial reform in the United Mouse Kingdom. (The child-labor laws are also referenced to by Fidget in the updated version of his autobiography, "What I Am".)

[5] The only toymaker that Hiram bears any ill will toward is Martin Loveless. He has yet to appear in any of my GMD fanfics, but when he does, you'll understand why Hiram dislikes him so much.

[6] And the Mechanical Monarch is living proof of that!

[7] The name of that toy company is supposed to be a Victorian joke...&, if you are familiar with (our version of) the history of that era, it's a satirical joke, at that.

[8] After receiving that visit from Hiram on Tuesday evening, Sophie called Mr. Altoid, & told him of the crises that her neighbor & his family were facing, as a result of the failure of their toy shop. Being the town benefactor (& a very generous furson at heart), Mr. Altoid was all-too-willing to help the Flavershams out in their time of need.

[9] I will admit, I was thinking of "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" when I wrote that line.

[10] Guess Hiram's going to have to get used to all those new slang terms, too... XD

[11] A bit of an homage to a certain scene in the original movie... ;-)

[12] That was the best explanation I could come up with for how one got to the second floor in Basil's old house, but if anyone can come up with a better explanation, feel free to enlighten me.

[13] Finally, I have an answer as to why Ratigan & Fidget have their own room at Basil's house! ^_^

[14] That was the best explanation I could come up with for how one got to the dining room in Basil's old house, but if anyone can come up with a better explanation, feel free to enlighten me.

[15] In addition to my never-ending list of personal projects (fandom-related & otherwise), I now have plans for several GMD 2 tie-in of which deals with the following scenario: "In the 4 weeks it takes to remodel their house, Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson go through a variety of experiences (all ranging from comical to frustrating) as they work on Phase 2 of their plan to help the Flavershams." Keep an eye out for "Extreme Makeover...Mouse Edition", coming soon from The Mouse Avenger. ;-)

[16] To this day, I still don't understand how Ratigan manages to fit his feet into those tiny boots! It's a complete mystery to me...

[17] For those of you with curious minds, fear not! Ratigan's full name shall be revealed to you in future chapters (along with the rest of the Baker Street Family's given names).

[18] Hopefully, no one will find any flaws or problems with this explanation of Ratigan's survival.

[19] Well, technically, the bronze plate is the only part of Basil's house that hasn't been completely fixed yet; since the Baker Street Family will occupy all of Basil's house, the address is now referred to as 'Lower 221B Baker Street', not 'Lower 221 ½ Baker Street' (although the old address should have been 'Lower 221 ⅓ Baker Street', since the building has 3 floors, not counting the attic & basement levels). Incidentally, different authors of GMD fanfics have different ways of writing street addresses for rodents. To clear up any confusion, I will explain the methods used in my stories. The mouse world has two different ways of listing addresses: with a street number & fraction, or with the word "Lower" placed before the street number (or a combination of the two). The fractions are only used to indicate floor levels of multistory mouse buildings that are not single houses or businesses. For example, since the Baker Street Family now occupies all of Basil's house, the address has been changed to Lower 221B Baker Street (as previously stated); Flaversham's Toy Shop is at Lower 3314 Walnut Avenue, & Inspector Tobias Clouseau & his friend Cato Zhong dwell together at Lower 319 Cheese Boulevard... ...but a particular tenant of the Hound Dog Flats might lodge in Room #17 at 455 ⅔ Plum Boulevard, while another tenant might lodge in a room with the same number on the first floor of the apartment building, or Room #17 at 455 ⅓ Plum Boulevard (& his next-door neighbors would occupy Rooms #16 & #18 at 455 ⅓ Plum Boulevard). It's the same idea with multilevel office buildings, businesses, condos, hotels, hospitals, shopping malls, & whatnot. The "1" in a fraction is always used to refer to the ground floor, & the top numbers of the subsequent fractions would refer to each of the upper floors (e.g., 2/6, 3/6, 4/6, 5/6, & 6/6); the number indicating the last floor is always written out as a fraction, never simplified to a whole number.

[20] The word "Lower" is used in addresses of mouse buildings that are built into humans' structures, like the Baker Street Family's house, Flaversham's Toy Shop, Sophie's Flower Shop, Mitsubishi's Kite Shop, or Larry's Libretto Company (to name a few examples). It is not used in the addresses of "stand-alone" buildings, like the London Mouse Mini-Mall, St. Mary's Youth Hostel, the "Taste Of America" restaurant, the London Flight Mouseum & Arena, Piccadilly Mouse Circus, the Hound Dog Flats, or the Rat Trap Family Restaurant (T.N.A.F.E.).

[21] I will admit, I was thinking of Ian Malcolm's line in the first "Jurassic Park" film when I wrote that.

[22] A similar thing happened to me, only the setting was the hallway of a hotel...& there's a rather neat story behind it, actually. In fact, I'm writing about my celebrity encounters & other experiences at Texas Frightmare Weekend 2008 in a personal memoir, "The Time Of My Life", which will be published & posted on a particular part of my GMD website. Keep an eye out for it! ;-)