Chapter 4:

Starting A New Life

Saturday, October 24, 1897

(CUE MUSIC: "Largo", from George Frederic Handel's "Xerxes")

It was late in the morning—a little after 9:30 AM, to be precise—& the Flavershams were quietly spending the first day of their weekend at home. In their bedroom, Olivia & Arden (who were dressed in their regular day clothes, & looking a lot healthier, due to the food that Mr. Altoid had been giving her family) were sitting on the floor, watching a new episode of "SquirrelBob AcornPants" on television. [1] But despite the mouselings' smiling faces & happy giggling at the humorous antics of the little cartoon squirrel & his pint-sized pal Ticky, something inside her didn't feel quite right...

When the show was over, Arden got up to turn off the television. Then Olivia walked over to the top bunk bed, climbed up the ladder, sat down on the mattress, placed her head in her hands, & sighed wistfully, as the smile that had once been on her face gradually began to disappear. The little Scotsmouse had woken up to see a bright, beautiful day, & her heart had been filled with such hope & optimism...but she soon became gravely disappointed when she, her sister, their father, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha saw each & every passerby walk past the toy shop, ignoring the 6 occupants. So much for wishing & praying, Olivia thought bitterly, wondering why it didn't seem like God was doing anything to alleviate her situation. It had been less than 2 months since her family's troubles began, & although Mr. Altoid, Sophie, & many of the Flavershams' other friends & neighbors were going out of their way to help them, that still didn't change the fact that their business was faring poorly...if not as poorly as it was back in September. A couple of days every week, customers had come by to visit the toy shop, & had bought some of Hiram's wares, so the Flavershams were doing a little better than before...but even such small successes would not be enough to keep the toy shop open for a very long period of time.

Olivia sighed again, then got up, walked over to the door, & opened it. As she made her way through the hallway to the main room of the toy shop, she mused, Maybe, I'll get a letter from my relatives saying that they'll come help us... ________________________________________ Meanwhile, inside the main room, Hiram was seated at his worktable, working on a new set of toys; Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha sat beside their uncle, watching him with great interest. Like Olivia & Arden, the 4 mice were dressed in their day clothes, & looking a lot healthier, due to Mr. Altoid providing the Flavershams with 3 square meals every day for the last month. But instead of disappointment, the expressions on Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha's faces were those of pleasantness; they all knew that Olivia was feeling discouraged—& they could understand why she felt that way, after all the misfortune that had fallen upon her family—but, hopefully, her spirits would lift when she saw how well the business was doing lately (compared to how it had been doing in September, anyway). The toy shop was, indeed, beginning to show signs of life once again, & if one were to take a look inside, (s)he could certainly tell that it was doing better...though not by very much, for just a few of the many toys on display were missing, having been bought by the customers who came in throughout the course of the week. But I'm sure more fursons will come in to buy toys next week, Hiram thought optimistically, as he worked on his new set of playthings. After all the support we've been getting throughout October, things can only continue to get better for us! Hiram had to thank Mr. Altoid, Sophie, & all the Flavershams' other friends & neighbors for their gracious help, & when his business started booming again (which he had no doubt it would), he'd also be sure to thank them for their efforts to find rodents who would be interested in his services... [2] After all, if it wasn't for those new patrons, his business would probably never be on the road to recovery!

Unbeknownst to Hiram, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha, Olivia & Arden came in to join their relatives at the worktable; after taking their usual seats beside their father, the little Scotsmouse Olivia put her head in her hands, & watched Hiram working on the new set of toys for the shop...but not without noticing the white envelope that was resting on the surface of the table. "Daddy..." Olivia began, hoping to get Hiram's attention.

"Yes, baby?" Hiram replied, smiling a little, as he continued working.

"What's that?" Olivia asked curiously, pointing to the letter that lay by Hiram's elbow.

At first, Hiram didn't know what Olivia was talking about...until he looked down, & saw the envelope. "I got a letter from the mailmouse today," Hiram finally answered. "I just haven't opened it yet."

"Who's it from?" Arden wanted to know.

"Just a second, dear," Hiram said, as he took the letter off of the table, & into his hand. When the older mouse saw the writing on the front of the envelope, he smiled in pleasant surprise, & told Olivia, "I think you'll be delighted to know who it's from!" With that, Hiram handed the letter to Olivia, who took it into her paws. Olivia stared at the envelope containing the epistle. It wasn't from her relatives; the sender's address told her that. The signature (hastily written in ink script) was a little difficult to read, but not too difficult so that she couldn't make out the words "Basil"...& "Baker Street"! [3]

Olivia's mouth hung agape in shock. Glancing up at her father, Olivia gave Hiram a wide-eyed look that seemed to ask: "Could it be...?" When the toymaker smiled slyly at his daughter, & gave a little wink, Olivia then turned her gaze back to the envelope. I wonder what it says, she thought. Being careful not to shred the envelope's contents, Olivia gently pried the seal open with her tiny fingers, before taking out the neatly-folded letter, & opening it up so that she could see the text written upon it. With that, Olivia began to read the letter aloud, her voice almost melting into Basil's own with each word she spoke...

Dear Olivia, Hello. This is Basil Of Baker Street. Perhaps, you are surprised why I'm writing to you—after all, we haven't seen each other in a couple of months—but please allow me to explain. I have seen you & your family in your struggles during the past several weeks...And I want to help make things better for all of you. I feel it would be a most wonderful idea if you & your loved ones could take lodgings with me & Dr. Dawson at Baker Street while we help you get back on your feet again. Be sure to take all your belongings & things—you could be staying with us for quite a while... I hope to hear from you soon, dear. Sincerely, Basil Of Baker Street

When she finished reading the letter, Olivia's face burst into a wide grin. This was it—this was the answer to her prayers! All the doubts & fears that once plagued her mind, were instantly cast aside, & the dark clouds that had been filling her skies, parted to reveal the rainbow at the end of the storm. The usual hope & optimism that marked Olivia's fursonality, had now returned to the mouseling's once-weary soul, bringing it out of the depths of darkness & despair! Her world of shadows became filled with light—blessed light!—& it was as if she could see life with a pair of rose-tinted glasses that she hadn't worn in so long...With that one letter, Basil had offered to completely change the course of Olivia's existence, as well as those of her father, sister, & cousins. Things for the Flavershams would improve as they never had before...if they would only accept the Great Mouse Detective's proposal to stay with him at his home. Brimming & beaming with anticipation, Olivia & Arden rushed onto Hiram's lap, staring up at him with big, bright eyes & a hopeful smile, as Olivia asked, "Daddy, can we go & live with Basil?"

"Please, papa? Please?" added Arden.

"I don't see why not," Hiram replied, returning Olivia & Arden's smiles. The expression on his daughters' faces revealed words that didn't need to be said, feelings that could never truly be described...All Olivia & Arden could do to express her gratitude, was give their father a great big hug & a kiss both cheeks, before sliding down off of Hiram's lap, landing on the floor, & scampering off to their room. There was a lot of packing they had to do before the Flavershams embarked on their journey to Baker Street... ________________________________________ (CUE MUSIC: "Prelude To Act 1", from Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata")

The first thing I should pack, Olivia thought as she & Arden stood on the floor of their bedroom, is all my leisurely items. With that in mind, Olivia took out all of her toy chests, opened one of them up, & withdrew the contents of the container, proceeding to organize them by group in a careful, but quick & timely, manner. She sorted all the Rainbow Toys, the dolls, the games, the music boxes, the musical instruments, the puzzles, the wind-up toys, the playsets, the electronic toys, & all the other various toys she had, before placing each group of playthings into a cardboard box while Arden followed suite. After that, Olivia & Arden both put each mini-toy-box in the oaken toy chest, stacking them all neatly, until they filled the chest to the brim; then, they closed the lids of the said chests, before performing the same set of routines with its "fellow mates".

Once she was done packing all of her toys, games, & playthings, Olivia proceeded to gather all of her crayons, her markers, her paints, her pastels, her sketchbooks, her pens & pencils, her paper, her art books, her brushes, her palette, her canvas, her collapsible easel, her compass, & her scrapbooks...before putting them all in two big backpacks, which she zipped closed. After that, Olivia went to get all of her books off the bookshelves & bookcase in her room, bringing them over to two large, empty chests. Olivia then stacked each book very neatly on top of another, making sure that both chests were filled to the brim, before she closed the lids. Arden did the same thing her little sister did.

Next, Olivia & Arden took out two big trunks, & opened them up, before going to gather all of the colorings, drawings, sketches, pictures, & paintings she had done over the years. After filling one of the trunks with these artworks, Olivia & Arden closed the lids of the container, before proceeding to get all of her stuffed animals, which she placed in the second trunk...although it did take some effort for Olivia & Arden to squeeze them all in, before they could finally close the lids shut. Then, the girls took out two small satchels, laid them out on the floor, & opened them up, before going over to collect all the photographs of them & their family. Each girl placed these in the aforementioned satchel, along with her diary & a fuschia-ink pen, before closing the bag, & taking out a few suitcases. Once they had opened the valises, the Flaversham sisters went to gather up the mementos & framed photos on her bookcase & in the rest of her room, before placing them in each of the suitcases, & closing the lids shut. After they were done with that, Olivia & Arden swacked the dust off their paws, then exited the bedroom to make their way into the Flavershams' kitchen / dining room, where Olivia proceeded to gather some food for her, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Hiram to snack on during the trip to Baker Street. It would be a long drive, after all...

After packing plenty of treats, Olivia & Arden took them into their bedroom, & placed them with the rest of their stuff, before going over to her armoire, & taking out all of the clothes that were in it. Hiram had sold most of the girls' outfits to help get money for the toy shop, but that was quite all right with his daughters, for Olivia had already outgrown those clothes in the 5 months that had passed since her 5th birthday in June. That certainly makes it easier for me to pack the garments I have left! Olivia thought, as she placed the clothes from her armoire into another empty trunk. "Well said, little sister!" Arden smiled, giving Olivia a thumbs-up & winking at her. Once she had shut the lid to that container, Olivia went over to stand in front of a tall antique mirror; now, she could perform the very last step of her pre-departure preparations!

First, Olivia took out her single-breasted blue dress-coat—the main article of the ensemble of clothing that she liked to wear outdoors—& slipped it on over her furson, poking her arms through the sleeves with the rolled-up cuffs. Then, Olivia buttoned all of the dress-coat's dark-blue buttons, before adjusting the manly collar with two double-peaked "wings", & tucking in her green "cravat" (which was actually the big bow on her white collar underneath). After that, Olivia took out her favorite "outdoor" hat: a large blue tam-o'-shanter that was topped with a red pom-pom, with a thick black brim that had a matching forked ribbon jutting out from the back. Olivia put the Scottish cap on her head, & proceeded to move it about until it looked just right. Finally, Olivia took out the last part of her "outdoor" ensemble: a long light blue scarf that was decorated with the plaid pattern of the Flaversham clan (consisting of thick red lines that were spaced far apart, & intersected with one another). Olivia wrapped the scarf snugly around her neck, & fastened it so that the loose end was trailing down over the front of her body, hiding the collar & buttons of her dress-coat from view. After looking up at her reflection in the mirror, Olivia smiled proudly when she saw herself dressed in her outing clothes. She was sure to look nice for Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson when the Flavershams came to see them at their house!

Next, Arden took out her single-breasted black dress-coat—the main article of the ensemble of clothing that she liked to wear outdoors—& slipped it on over her furson, poking her hands through the sleeves. After that, Arden buttoned all of the dress-coat's black buttons before tucking in her white-&-fuchsia striped cravat (which was really the collar of her dress). A moment later, she put on her calf-length dark red rubber boots over her shod feet. Finally, Arden took out the last part of her "outdoor" ensemble: a long dark red scarf. Arden wrapped the scarf snugly around her neck, & fastened it so that the loose end was trailing down over the front of her body, hiding the collar & buttons of her dress-coat from view. After looking up at her reflection in the mirror, Arden smiled proudly when she saw herself dressed in her outing clothes. She was sure to look nice for Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson when the Flavershams came to see them at their house! "There," Arden said to herself. "Ready to go?" ________________________________________ Later that day, Hiram had gotten all dressed up in his outing attire—the blue jacket with matching trousers, the crisp white shirt, the pinstriped red cravat, the shiny black shoes, & the blue bowler hat with the red ribbon-stripe, complete with glasses. The toymaker took a moment to adjust the aforementioned cravat, then smiled down at Olivia & Arden in a pleasant manner. The Flavershams (including Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha, who were dressed in their usual outfits) were now standing in the main room of the toy shop, watching a team of large, burly muscle-mice carry all of the family's stuff (except for the furniture, which would remain in the building) into the fleet of moving vans that was waiting outside. After Hiram, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha saw the moving-mice bring the last of the items out of the toy shop, kitchen / dining room, & living quarters, they began making their way outside to join them on the pavement of Walnut Avenue.

As dictated by the rules of rodential driving, the Flavershams' car had been moved onto the sidewalk, & the moving vans were lined up behind it. As the moving-mice were packing the Flavershams' stuff into these vehicles, Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha walked out of the toy shop together. Hiram turned to shut the front door, & lock it with his key, before turning back to face his daughters, nephew, & nieces with an eager smile. "Well, wee ones, let's be off!" Hiram exclaimed brightly. With that, the Flavershams made their way over to their car, opened the doors, & entered the automobile, with Olivia, Arden, & Cousin Samantha all climbing into the back seat & Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina both climbing into the middle seat; Arden sat on the left side of the car, Olivia sat on the right side, & Cousin Samantha sat between the Flaversham sisters in the back while Cousin Timmy sat on the left side, & Cousin Tina sat on the right side in the middle (behind the driver's seat, where Hiram took his place in front of the controls). After the moving-mice finished putting up the Flavershams' things, shut the sliding doors to their vans, & went to get in the drivers' cabins, everyone buckled their seatbelts; Hiram then started up the engine of his car, & the motorcade began making its way towards Baker Street. [4]

As the car drove down the eastern side of Walnut Avenue, Olivia turned back to take one long, last look at the toy shop where she had spent over 5 years of her life...In a way, Olivia was sad to be leaving the building at Lower 3314, but, at the same time, she was also looking forward to living with Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson at their house. Even so, the little Scotsmouse couldn't help but reach out a paw to wave "goodbye" to the toy shop, almost as if she were bidding "farewell" to an old friend or acquaintance...She kept on waving until the car turned the corner onto the Crown Street offshoot, & the Flavershams' old home disappeared from view. Now, Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha were heading out for the place where they would begin a brand-new stage of their existence!

With her left elbow planted in the space behind the passenger-door window, & her head resting against the palm of her paw, Olivia was gazing out—& yet not really looking—at the scenery that passed by, daydreaming about the new life she & her family would soon be leading. She could just imagine what would happen when she entered the house on Baker Street...Basil & his friends, no doubt, would greet the Flavershams with open arms, & Mrs. Judson would treat everyone to her delicious, home-cooked meals. Then, everyone would spend some time together, merrily whiling away the hours, until the Flavershams moved into their new rooms, & got settled in for the night...before waking up to the wonderful new day that awaited them all! It's going to be fantastic, Olivia thought blissfully, as she smiled at the delightful visions that filled her head, foretelling of all the good things to come this well as the ones after it... ________________________________________ Meanwhile, on the other side of town, the streets of the Whitechapel district (located in London's East End) were strangely empty...& peaceful. All the Jewish rodents were attending morning services at the synagogues, while tailors & seamstresses labored in their clothing shops. No muggers, murderers, or other hoodlums stalked the streets in the broad daylight, & all the inhabitants of the district were relaxing in their homes, enjoying the placid pre-noon hours of this oh-too-pleasant Saturday. All was quiet, & there didn't appear to be a sign of trouble anywhere...except on the mouse street of Poormouse Avenue (known to us humans as Old Castle Street), where a few beggarmice were loitering around. A little orphan mouse in raggedy clothing was hiding in an adjoining alleyway, his small paws clutching tightly at a piece of cheese he had recently "pinched" from a food vendor's booth. On the main road, an old, grizzle-faced street bum was pushing around a small cart (made out of a human's gravy bowl), which was filled with the food & pieces of junk that he had been collecting for several weeks. Not too far away down the street, a wretched-looking beggar mousette with white fur, covered in sores & infections, was walking around, shaking a tin cup in the hopes of getting sympathetic passersby to lend her some money. [5] But that wasn't where the trouble started...

(CUE MUSIC: "Sunrise", from Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra")

Suddenly, a tall pair of shadows began looming over Poormouse Avenue, as footsteps pounded down the cobblestone lane like the thunderous steps of a giant. In the alley, the orphan mouse was about to take a bite of his pilfered piece of cheese...but when he saw the large shadows rising over him, he abruptly stopped what he was doing, & shrank back fearfully, quivering from head to toe in absolute terror. On the main road, the street bum was still pushing his cart of stuff around...but when he looked up to see the strange shadows towering over him, the bum gave a gulp of fright, & immediately turned tail, furiously pushing his cart in his mad dash to exit the area (& evade any potential danger). And the beggar mousette was still walking about, shaking her tin cup...but when she turned to see the shadows before her, she instantly dropped said cup, & swiftly moved her paws up to stifle the gasp that was bursting forth from her lips. There, right in front of the beggar mousette & her friends, were a familiar pair of figures...none other than Ratigan & Fidget!

The unofficially-reformed rodents, both clutching a few suitcases, were standing with their paws on their hips, their arms akimbo, & their heads tilted up, as they sported proud, closed-mouth smiles on their faces. The two were dramatically back-lit by the sun in the sky, making their silhouettes seem all the more ominous to the 3 beggarmice...not that Ratigan & Fidget seemed to notice, as they went over to approach them. First, Ratigan stepped into the alley, before bending down to give a friendly smile & a wave of his gloved fingers at the little orphan mouse. The orphan mouse's expression of fright soon changed to an angry glare, & he immediately proceeded to bonk Ratigan on the nose with a mighty whack of his fist. But Ratigan was not the least bit daunted or deterred in his efforts to give his poor peers an amiable greeting; instead, he just left the alley, & went out to approach the street bum. The bum, eager to express his displeasure at seeing Ratigan, took a tomato from his cart, & splashed it in the younger rat's face, causing red goo to drip down from his head. Well, maybe, Fidget will have better luck than me, Ratigan thought somewhat-bitterly, as he attempted to clean the mess off his face, hair, & crown with a silk pawkerchief.

Meanwhile, a cheerfully-smiling Fidget approached the beggar mousette, extending a webbed hand in a friendly gesture to shake. In response, the beggar mousette gave a spiteful glare, & proceeded to stomp Fidget's toes on his left foot; Fidget immediately grabbed said foot, & started jumping up & down in agony, as he tried to alleviate his injury. [6] A few seconds later, Fidget finally managed to relieve the pain in his toes, & he went over to join Ratigan at his side. Both watched as the orphan mouse (holding his piece of cheese), the street bum (still pushing his cart), & the beggar mousette (clutching her tin cup in her paw) all turned around, & ran away, leaving Ratigan & Fidget alone in the middle of the street. The toothy, eager smiles on the ex-rogues' faces soon became sad, discouraged frowns, as their countenances fell in absolute disheartenment & disappointment. Their first attempt to make peace with the citizens of Mouse London did not turn out in the manner they had originally anticipated. "Well, I can certainly say this isn't going too well," Ratigan remarked, turning to face Fidget with a desolate look.

"Ditto," Fidget replied, nodding his head in agreement. "I guess nobody knows that we're reformed yet."

"You have a good point, there, Fidget," Ratigan said thoughtfully. "Perhaps, we should make a formal announcement to our fellow rodents regarding our change of heart." With that in mind, Ratigan & Fidget took up their bags, & walked together down the street, before turning a corner to the left, walking down an adjoining passageway to another corner at the end, making a turn to their right, & going forward until they eventually wound up at the entrance to a nearby alley, where the low-income residents of the neighborhood had established one of Mouse London's many "poor places". In the crude community, the orphan mouseling, the street bum, & the beggar mousette had gathered with several other rodents of different species, ages, & nationalities; all of these fursons were dressed in rags or shabby clothing, & many of them were also very ill & sickly, or had various degrees of injury from whatever misfortunes had cropped up in their lives. In the middle of the poor place, there was a large (mouse-sized) can with a fire burning in it; a few rodents were standing around said can, trying to warm their paws in the heat of their makeshift hearth. None of the inhabitants of the poor place, however, took notice of Ratigan & Fidget standing in the threshold of their alley home.

Bending down & leaning in towards Fidget, Ratigan whispered into his comrade's ear, "Stay here for just one second, & follow my lead. I'll go up to them first."

Then, sporting a broad smile, Ratigan calmly strolled towards the rodents in the poor place, throwing his arms out in a grand flourish, as he addressed them, "Brothers! Friends!" Upon seeing Ratigan, the street rodents all screamed, & ducked for cover, but Ratigan did not give up on his efforts to talk to them: "Listen to me, my fine rodential..."—he paused to think of a word that might serve as a suitable soubriquet—"...mates!"

One of the beggar mice who wasn't cowering in the corners & crannies of the poor place bravely approached Ratigan, angrily shaking his fist at him, as he yelled, "We don't want your filthy charity, you no-good bugger! Go back to school!"

"Join the army!" shouted another homeless furson, as he came out of his hiding place with a few of his fellow tramps, now mustering the courage to stand up to the rat who had ruined so many innocent lives in years past. "You can go off to kill a bunch of mice, & leave us good, law-abiding citizens alone!"

"But my brothers, my friends!" Ratigan cried, attempting to plead with the poverty-stricken rodents. "Listen to me!"

"Friends..." one beggar lady repeated to her gal pal mockingly, giving a sarcastic snort, & a derisive roll of her eyes. The impoverished mouse woman had to admit, she'd seen a lot of odd things in her time; for instance, she'd seen a jelly roll, heard a highway toll, & even seen a family tie...but she thought she'd "done seen" about everything when she saw Ratigan—the very furson who had maintained an 8-year career as Mouse London's #1 crime lord—not only daring to show his face again after the Diamond Jubilee fiasco, but also having the nerve to think that he could just get along peacefully with law-abiding rodents, after all the horrible things he had done to them since 1889! Who on Mouse Earth did that scoundrel think he was, trying to associate with the likes of do-gooders, while acting like he wouldn't hurt a fly (when, in reality, he'd probably take great pleasure in doing so)? Does he think we're bloody stupid? the beggar lady couldn't help but wonder to herself in bewilderment. More like he's the stupid one...

By now, Ratigan was growing desperate. Would anyone listen to him? Would anyone take notice of the honest & heartfelt sincerity in his words, his actions? "Mouse!" Ratigan exclaimed in an impassioned tone, trying to express one of his new thoughts on life. " the only truth!"

"Truth? Here's the only truth, you scoundrel!" one of the other street bums said angrily, as he dumped the contents of his bottle of ginger ale on Ratigan.

But Ratigan did not react to the vagabond's contemptuous gesture, nor did he care to; he was far too focused on his fursonal endeavors to prove that he was, indeed, a changed rat. "No, it's you, me, all of us!" he said. "I know I speak for everyone when..." By this point, the rodents in the poor place had had enough with these speeches, & they all started muttering angrily, as they slowly approached Ratigan, ready to attack him & Fidget. [7] Ratigan, however, remained calm, as he tried his best to soothe the "savage beasts" of the streets. "Stop!" he begged. "Please heed my words, fellow brethren &...sister...en!" Deciding to humor Ratigan (& get him off their backs), the residents of the poor place stopped in their tracks, & listened to Ratigan, who continued talking: "Now, then...The truth of the matter is this. In the 3 months that have passed since my fall from Big Ben, I have really taken the opportunity to examine my conscience, & consider a better, more satisfying way of life that even committing crime could never fulfill...And that way of life is that of a kind, gentle, stout-hearted, law-abiding you!"

At this point, the rodents of the poor place paused, & began reflecting thoughtfully on Ratigan's words, as the ex-rogue continued, "I suppose it's hard for you to understand what I'm talking about. You've probably never experienced something like this before in your lives...& I don't particularly blame you. For the true & honest reformation of a criminal is a miraculous & extremely rare occurrence, a gracious opportunity to change that the hands of Mother Fate deem fit to grant to only a few individuals..." Then, after giving a clear of his throat, Ratigan added with a broad smile, "But as you can see, Fidget & I are blessed to be among those individuals!"

(CUE SONG: "Criminals-Turned-Friends")

With that, Ratigan began to sing to the rodents in the poor place, hoping he'd be able to convince them that he & Fidget had truly found a pathway to the world of goodness & light...

So you say we're dirty rotten scoundrels Two 'pallin' partners in crime Well, darling friends, that was then, & this is now Changes have come with the times

Remembering Ratigan's earlier instructions to "follow his lead", Fidget joined in the song, addressing the indigent fursons before them with a lyrical verse of his own...

You've probably never, ever heard this, But even villains can be cured! Though it may seem out of whack, it's quite true That once-corrupt souls can be pure

Then, Ratigan & Fidget began to sing together...

You...see...we're... Criminals-turned-friends We kid you not, dear fellows Criminals-turned-friends It's as true as Big Ben bellows! You say a rodent rogue Is unable to amend But soon you'll stand corrected 'Cause we're criminals-turned-friends!

But Ratigan wasn't quite finished making his (musical) statement to the rodents of the poor place. He continued to sing, switching to a verse that focused on the main point of his 'speech', the real crux of the matter...

So you say we're vicious little varmints With no virtue to our evil name Well, darling friends, that was then, & this is now Now we're cleansed of all our sin & shame

Once again following Ratigan's lead, Fidget joined in with his own verse that further elaborated on the main point that Ratigan was trying to establish...

We know you probably don't believe us, But every word we say is true All our crimes will be atoned for, And both our lives will be renewed

Then, Ratigan & Fidget began singing in unison, working to bring their 'speech' to its ultimate conclusion...

'Cause...we...are... Criminals-turned-friends The truth we tell, old beans Criminals-turned-friends It's as true as grass is green! You say a rodent rogue Is unable to amend But soon you'll stand corrected 'Cause we're criminals-turned-friends! You say a rodent cannot change, That he'll stay on his evil trend But now you know such thoughts are strange, 'Cause we're criminals-turned-friends! And now you stand corrected, 'Cause we're criminals-turned-friends! Yeah!

When Ratigan & Fidget were finished with their song, the rodents in the poor place didn't know exactly how to react. They were all struck with a mixture of various emotions—shock, surprise, awe, astonishment, amazement—& their minds were taken up by a whirlwind of many thoughts. Was it true? Was it really true that Ratigan & Fidget wanted to make new lives for themselves? Did they really have their sights set on reforming? It seemed so hard to believe...&, yet, years of living on the streets had taught the rodents of the poor place several things. It had made them become more street-smart, more wise in the ways of the world, & more skilled at judging the character of fursons they encountered. Little bits of body language—such as a smile, a frown, a twitch, a tremor, a flash of the teeth, a wrinkle of the flesh, or a gleam or glimmer in the eyes—could serve as signs that told so much about a furson's motivations...Oh, but especially the eyes! The eyes were the biggest & most important window to the soul! And there was something in Ratigan & Fidget's eyes that seemed to tell the poverty-stricken rodents that their words to them were honest & sincere...that their intentions were noble...that they had no desire to deceive or trick them in any way. And with that judgement, came the sinking suspicion...that, somehow, they were right. The rodents in the poor place soon started smiling, & began to mutter in agreement about the conclusion they had reached. "Think we should start tellin' everybody about this?" the orphan mouseling asked the beggar mousette in an excited tone.

"Oh, yes, let's all start spreadin' the gossip!" the beggar mousette replied eagerly, nodding her head up & down in affirmation. "The more Mouse London knows of Ratigan & Fidget's reformation, the better it'll be for everyone!" When they saw the poor rodents' positive reactions to their announcement, Ratigan & Fidget couldn't help but smile at one another, sharing a gesture that indicated their satisfaction at their fursonal triumph. Step 1 of Operation: Reformation was now officially complete!With that success in mind, Ratigan & Fidget both took up their bags again, & made their way out of the poor place to continue on their journey to Baker Street. Hopefully, the money they had in their pockets would pay for a quick lunch...& a time-saving Mousetro ride through Central Mouse London! ________________________________________ As it turned out, however, Ratigan & Fidget were not able to successfully find food or transportation. Every restaurant they went to refused them service, & when they attempted to board a Mousetro tram, the driver would not accept their money. And, yet, Ratigan was not really surprised by any of this, for he knew all along that fursons would not so easily forget his past transgressions, even after 4 whole months of criminal inactivity; the only reason that the rodents of the poor place believed Ratigan & Fidget was because they had very good skills at judging character, which helped them to see how truthful & honest the ex-rogues were being. Unfortunately, those who did not live on the streets felt that they had no need for such skills, &, thus, they lacked that ability to sense the inner workings of a rodent's soul; therefore, they did not believe that Ratigan & Fidget were telling the truth about their change of lifestyle.

But Ratigan did not give into defeat or despair. He knew that the process of assimilating into proper Neo-Mousetorian society would be long & difficult, & he knew that it would not be easy to get other rodents to trust him...but he had absolutely no doubt that he could do it. And making peace with Basil will certainly help, Ratigan thought, as he & Fidget walked down the sidewalk of the mouse street of Westerly Road (known to us humans as Westway). The avenue, located in the Shepherds Bush district of London's West End (not to mention the same borough where the Flavershams once lived), spanned over a big hill that went eastward to the area where Baker Street was...& it wouldn't be too long before Ratigan & Fidget finally reached their destination! [8]

(CUE MUSIC: Frederick The Great's "Hohenfriedberger March", as performed by Leonard Rosenman)

Clutching their suitcases, Ratigan & Fidget both hiked up the hill, marching down the pavement with a merry spring in their steps. The more they walked, the closer they got to Baker Street...& the closer they got to Baker Street, the more their anticipation grew! Ratigan & Fidget were finding it harder & harder to wait until the moment when they finally made peace with Basil (& all his friends, of course)! As he led his batty friend up the hill, Ratigan beamed, "Oh, Basil's going to be so excited to find out that his former enemies have turned over new leaves!" Suddenly, Ratigan & Fidget's ears perked up to a calamitous cacophony nearby...

At the crest of the hill, the fleet of moving vans had stopped behind the Flavershams' car; Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Hiram were all outside the automobile...& it appeared that they had gotten involved in a very dangerous situation. Two muggers had spotted the migrating cavalcade coming up the hill, & the sight of the vans made the greedy hoodlums think of all the wonderful treasures that could be in them...just waiting to be taken into their possession! After the muggers had gotten the Flavershams to stop their car, they forced them to exit the vehicle...&, now, they were trying to hold the family hostage, so they could steal the stuff from the moving vans. Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Hiram, however, fought valiantly to break free from the grip of the muggers; Olivia, in particular, was putting up an especially-good fight. "Let me go, you big, dumb bully!" Olivia shouted angrily, as she struggled in one mugger's grasp. "We're not going to let you take our stuff!" Cousin Samantha added. To prove her point, she gave a mighty swing of her fist...& hit the mugger in a place that was, shall we say, very uncomfortable!

The mugger ignored the aching in his groin, however, & he sneered at Olivia & her twin cousin, pointing a threatening finger at her. "Listen 'ere, you lil' brats," the bandit started to say, but he was cut off in mid-sentence when Olivia bit his finger. The mugger immediately dropped Olivia with a yowl of agony, before trying to tend to his injured index, which was reddened & throbbing with pain. With Olivia distracting the first mugger, Cousin Tina ran over to his partner-in-crime, who was holding Cousin Timmy up in the air by one paw; with a good, rough kick to the shin, Tina got the second mugger to let go of Timmy...but not without letting out a scream of torment.

"Ouch!" the second mugger cried, as he clutched his aching leg, & started hopping up & down on the other foot. "Cheese & crumpets, that hurts!" After finally getting the swelling in his leg to go down, the second mugger glared at Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha with a look that could have peeled paint; those two troublemakers were in for it now! With their sights set on revenge & retaliation, the two muggers prepared to chase the Flaversham cousins, but Hiram dodged in their way, determined to protect the mouselings from any harm. Before too long, Hiram got into a physical confrontation with the muggers, who were trying their best to overpower the toymaker (but without much success).

Not too far away, a certain couple had seen everything, & they didn't want those nasty ne'er-do-wells to get away with robbing any of the Flavershams' belongings. But what could they do to stop them? Taking a quick look around, Ratigan spotted the two large carts that the muggers used to travel around in (& also carry stolen goods in)...& cracked a sly smile, as an idea came to him. This couldn't be a more opportune time for me to do my first good deed! he thought. And I know just how to carry it out...

Meanwhile, the fracas between the Flavershams & their attackers was still continuing...until everything came to a sudden halt when the mice all heard a sharp whistle, followed by a cry of "Excuse me!" When the Flavershams & the muggers turned to face the furson who had addressed them, they saw a rat in royal garb standing between a certain pair of vehicles that belonged to a certain pair of thieves. Gesturing to the wooden wagons, the rat told the muggers with a smug grin, "I believe these are your carts." Then, he gave both carts a push, sending them wheeling down the hill.

When he saw this happening, the second mugger immediately panicked, & he took to his heels. "Come on, you idiot!" he told his partner, beckoning for him to join him at his side. "The carts are moving!" Shouting & yelling, the two muggers began running away from the Flavershams (& their cavalcade) to chase after the runaway carts, following them all the way down to the bottom of the hill. With a mischievous smirk on his face, Ratigan watched the muggers pursue the wagons even further down the road...before bracing for the jostling impact of the bandits with their carts. His plan had worked, just as he thought it would! After the crash had occurred, Ratigan opened his eyes, & turned to face the Flavershams...but he instantly became shocked when he saw that the family had already gone back on their way to Baker Street, with the fleet of moving vans following after them. Waving their arms & suitcases frantically about, Ratigan & Fidget hurried to catch up with the Flavershams, hoping they could get to Baker Street at the same time they did; it would certainly save them an extra trip to Walnut Avenue! ________________________________________ (CUE MUSIC: Orchestral version of "Jeg Elsker Dig", by Edvard Grieg) Early that afternoon, in the living room of his newly-refurbished house, Basil Of Baker Street sat in his favorite red armchair; he had not changed out of his house attire, for he was still wearing his crimson terrycloth robe with the dark-green cuffs, collar, & trimmings over his white shirt-sleeves & mesquite-brown trousers, & his feet were still clad in the black shoes with ash-gray spats (although he had decided to exchange his green necktie for a turquoise one, which he often wore with his robe). [9] Then again, Basil didn't usually wear his mouse detective outfit indoors, except under certain circumstances...but Basil wasn't thinking about all that; instead, he was waiting for the moment when the Flavershams would arrive on his doorstep. As anticipated as Basil was to see his old friends, however, his patience was increasingly wearing thin; he didn't know if he could wait much longer for the Flavershams to show up. "Are they here yet?" Basil asked impatiently, as he drummed his fingers on the right arm of his chair.

In the antechamber leading to the front door, Mrs. Judson was gazing out the big round window that looked out onto the street. Before too long, she saw a green car, followed by a fleet of moving vans, pour into the driveway. "I think I see them now, Mr. Basil!" Mrs. Judson said happily, as she turned to face the detective with a broad smile. And lo & behold, the mousekeeper's words were confirmed with the sound of Hiram honking his horn. "Yes, they're here!" Mrs. Judson exclaimed, brimming with excitement. "They're here, Mr. Basil!"

Back in the living room, Dr. Dawson was sitting across from Basil in his favorite green armchair; the medical mouse was now dressed in his regular daytime outfit, along with a lavender-orchid English cap that he wore on his head. When he heard Mrs. Judson announce that Olivia & her family were at the house, Dr. Dawson looked up from the newspaper he had been reading, & put it down on the side of his chair, as he said joyfully, "Oh, the Flavershams have arrived! How wonderful!"

"Let's go greet them post-haste!" Basil exclaimed, as he got up out of his own chair, & followed Dr. Dawson into the antechamber. Basil then went over to the main entrance, with Dr. Dawson & Mrs. Judson trailing after him, & opened the front door. Standing in the threshold...was none other than little Olivia Flaversham, all dressed up in her outing clothes, with one of her suitcases clutched in her tiny paw; Hiram, a boy mouseling (presumably one of Olivia's relatives), & 3 girl mouselings (one was Olivia's sister while 2 were presumably Olivia's other relatives) were standing right behind her, on the front porch. And judging from the way Olivia was smiling up at Basil, the detective could tell that the young Scotsmouse was extremely happy to see him; quite frankly, Basil felt the same way about the Flavershams, & he expressed his inner gladness with a fond smile. "Olivia...welcome to Lower 221B Baker Street," Basil said warmly, as he kneeled down before Olivia. The little mouseling immediately rushed into Basil's arms for a great big hug, as Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, Hiram, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson watched on with sweet smiles & adoring expressions.

"Oh, Basil, I'm so happy to see you again!" Olivia said gleefully, as she wrapped her wee arms around Basil. "I missed you whole bunches!"

"I missed you whole bunches, too, myself, dear," Basil replied tenderly, returning the hug. "Baker Street wasn't much fun without you around."

Olivia couldn't help but giggle when she heard that. "Thanks, Basil!" she said, before reaching up on her tiptoes to kiss the detective on the nose. In response, Basil's cheeks blushed a bright red, & everyone laughed in amusement at Basil's bashful reaction to Olivia's gesture of affection. [10] I suppose I haven't gotten entirely used to the emotions thing, Basil thought. But I'm quite sure that I will in the days to come...

After the laughter subsided—& after his cheeks returned to their normal color—Basil rose to his feet, & gently extended his paw out towards Olivia (who took it in her own hand), as he said happily, "I do hope you enjoy your new home, Miss Flaversham! We've got plenty of surprises to show you, if you'll walk this way, my dear..."

Just as Basil was about to lead Olivia & the others inside, however, a large pair of shadows loomed over them, & a familiar voice called out cheerfully, "Good afternoon, Basil, Flavershams, Dawson! A pleasure to see all of you again on this lovely day!"

Upon turning to see the source of the shadows, Basil & the others all let out horrified screams! The Flavershams ran to hide in a nearby bush, Mrs. Judson fainted to the floor, Dr. Dawson went to revive the mousekeeper, & Basil glared angrily at the uninvited guests who had just joined them.

(CUE MUSIC: "Anitra's Dance", from Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt" Suite)

"Wait, now, what's all the hullaballoo about?" asked a familiar furson in royal garb...none other than Ratigan! He was standing with Fidget on the front porch, clutching all their suitcases in his two paws, while a smiling Fidget presented gift baskets & glass bottles of soda pop in his wings. Both were looking positively harmless...& cheerful, despite their less-than-friendly reception. "Well, you're not just gonna leave your guests standing on the porch, are you?" Ratigan asked, acting amused about the others' reaction to his presence. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were trying to keep us out of the house..." Then, with a wink & a coy smile, Ratigan added, "I believe you mentioned you had some surprises planned for us, am I right, Basil?"

"Are we havin' a party?" Fidget said, holding up the gift baskets & bottles of soda pop. "Don't worry, I brought goodie bags & Rodent's Delight for everyone!"

"Fidget, I believe you know that those 'presents' were meant for our gracious hosts," Ratigan whispered aside to his partner, before smiling & gesturing out with outstretched arms & palms to the Flavershams, Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson.

"So it is a party?" Fidget asked Ratigan, staring at his former boss cluelessly.

Now becoming quite annoyed with Fidget, Ratigan slapped his forehead, as he replied, "No, it is NOT a party!"

"Den why did you tell me to bring dese?" Fidget demanded to know.

"Fidget, we've already gone through this!" Ratigan ejaculated in frustration. Before long, he & Fidget got into an argument, & as the two squabbled, Ratigan only became more irritated & exasperated with his ex-minion. Finally, Ratigan ended the heated exchange with an irked inquiry: "Oh, for heaven's sakes, Fidget, will you ever shut up, & listen to me for just one second?"

A beat of silence passed, before Fidget made his response: "I just did right now." When Ratigan turned to glare at him, all Fidget could do was smile sheepishly, & titter.

The Flavershams & the others, however, weren't laughing, & the spiteful expressions on their faces clearly indicated to Ratigan & Fidget that they were not welcome. A glaring Cousin Timmy went up to Ratigan, & poked him thrice in the nose with his forefinger, as he said sternly, "Two words: scram!"

"That's one word, Cousin Timmy," Cousin Samantha corrected.

"So?" Timmy replied nonchalantly, as he turned to face his kinsmouse.

But Samantha did not say anything back; instead, she, Hiram, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Mrs. Judson, Dr. Dawson, & the moving-mice (carrying all the Flavershams' stuff) proceeded to make their way inside the house...but before Basil joined them, he stayed for a moment to give Ratigan a few last words. "Get...out...immediately," the detective said firmly. "And don't come back, you fiend!" Ratigan started to protest, but the door was already closed before he could say anything.

Ratigan sighed in exasperation, as he lowered his gaze to the floor, his gloved hands in his royal robe pockets. Aside from the incidents at the poor place & on Westerly Road, this day was just not going well for him or Fidget. Already, Fidget was beginning to feel that he & Ratigan shouldn't have come to Baker Street in the first place; if their efforts to make peace with Basil & his friends didn't turn out successfully, why had they even bothered trying? "Uh...maybe, we should just go back to da hideout," Fidget suggested timidly.

Ratigan, however, did not take this idea lightly. "NO, Fidget!" he said angrily, turning to glare down at his batty comrade. "We're NOT going back there! We'd be giving into the temptation of evil already!" Then, looking back up with an expression of grim determination, he added, "We HAVE to try again!" And, so, Ratigan began knocking on the front door of Basil's house, hoping that someone would answer it...& listen to what he had to say!

Inside the house, Basil was watching the Flavershams & the moving-mice make their way through the antechamber that led into the living room. The detective was just about to follow them...but he was interrupted in mid-step by the sound of knocking. When he realized that someone was at the door, Basil gave an annoyed grunt & a roll of his eyes; it either had to be Ratigan...or a Campfire Lass selling boxes of variously-flavored cookies, which he had no desire to purchase at this time. [11] In any case, Basil turned around, & went back to answer the door. He was stunned—& yet not entirely surprised—to see Ratigan still standing in the threshold, smiling nervously. Basil couldn't believe it! Not only was Ratigan alive & kicking, but he had the absolute nerve to show up on his doorstep, as if he were expecting the detective to forget all that had happened between them in the past 8 years! But Basil knew that Ratigan, despite being 11 years his junior, was just as smart as he was (if not smarter!); he was certainly intelligent enough to know that Basil was not so easily going to forget his transgressions...let alone allow him & Fidget into his home. [12] For all he knew, Ratigan was planning to start up a new criminal empire, & he only wanted to get into the house to seek revenge on Basil & his friends! Coming out from behind the front door to confront Ratigan face-to-face, Basil said angrily, "I thought I told you to..."

"Wait, Basil, listen to me, please!" Ratigan pleaded, waving his paws vigorously in front of him. "I've changed!"

"Changed? What on Earth are you talking about?" Basil asked in utter disbelief.

(CUE SONG: "I've Changed")

In response, Ratigan put on a smug smile, & replied, "Glad you asked." And he began to explain about his reformation to Basil in song...

Oh, Basil, old friend, don't you see That foul Napoleon's history! I've changed! Yes, I've gone & turned My crime-filled life around Forget those awful times of yore

That wicked villain's here no more!

I've changed! Yes, I've...

"Changed? Ha!" Basil scoffed. "These ears won't hear that sound!"

"Now, Basil..." Ratigan began, but he was cut off in mid-sentence by the older mouse. The detective poked & prodded Ratigan, stepping closer towards him every time he did so, as he sang...

Don't try to tell those horrid lies And smile beneath those sneaky eyes! You'll change, yes, the tide will turn When snails begin to dance! Rogues never change! They stay the same! They always play their callous games And I see no reason to Give you a second chance!

Not giving up on his desperate desire to explain things to Basil, Ratigan said, "I'm afraid you're sadly mistaken, my boy..."

Oh, Basil, chum, just hear me out! There is no need for you to doubt! I've changed for the better, And I'll make you see that fact! I know that I've lied to you And said what I knew wasn't true But times are a-changin', And this is certainly no act!

"There never WAS a reformation!" Basil sang angrily.

"Why on Earth won't you believe me?" Ratigan asked desperately.

"It's all a great big fabrication!"

"I've truly changed! Can't you see me?"

"You want to put us in a trap!"

"I'm not trying to pull any wool!"

"So don't hand me that stupid schmap!"

"You're only being a stubborn fool!" Ratigan said irritatedly, but Basil wouldn't let him hear the end of it...

You'll never change, my long-time foe, And don't convince me otherwise! The day you'll get me to believe you Is when Felicia flies!

Despite Basil's doubts, however, Ratigan was determined to show his ex-enemy that he had, indeed, turned over a new leaf...

But don't you understand that I Only want to do what's right! I want to end my days of vice And fill my days with warmth & light!

Basil was getting tired of this game with Ratigan. He wanted it to end, & he wanted it to end now! Glaring daggers at the younger rat, Basil sang...

Of all the tricks you've ever played, This one annoys me to no end! When will you stop trying to show me That a rodent can amend? Looking just as irritated as Basil was, Ratigan sang in reply... Look here, moy dorogoy droog, I don't like what you're trying to convey! Kindly stop being so rude And listen to what I have to say!

Then, sporting that desperate look on his face once again, Ratigan tried to convince Basil of his reformation one more time...

Oh, Basil, old friend, don't you see That foul Napoleon's history! I've changed! Yes, I swear I've changed!

"I find that hard to see!" Basil said cynically, but Ratigan did not give up in his efforts to persuade the detective...

Oh, Basil, dear chum, are you wrong! That cruel professor's dead & gone! I'm no longer mean or vicious And though this may sound fictitious, I've changed for the better, And I hope you will agree!

(CUE MUSIC: "Dance Of The Blessed Spirits", from Christoph W. Gluck's "Orpheus & Eurydice")

Basil didn't know what to think. Never in his whole life had he ever heard of—let alone seen—a criminal reforming...He always used to think that villains always stayed the way they were, & never had a desire to change their lives for the better. But, maybe, Basil was wrong to a degree. After all, just because he never saw something happen, didn't necessarily mean that it couldn't happen...right? All right, so, maybe, a criminal could reform...but Basil would have expected that to happen to someone like a bank robber or a forger, not Ratigan! Throughout the last 8 years, Ratigan had thoroughly enjoyed committing crimes, & he never made any attempt to hide this. But after his defeat on the night of the Diamond Jubilee, perhaps, he changed his mind about his lifestyle, & wanted to find a better one...but what had driven Ratigan to supposedly reform? Guilt? Shame? Remorse? The crushing pain of his fursonal failure? Boredom with a life of crime? Basil had no way to tell. It seemed that there were too many questions, & not enough answers...but after a few moments of careful consideration, Basil finally decided that there may be some truth in Ratigan's words, & with a sigh, he said, "Well...I still don't trust you...but I'm hoping that I actually will see signs of improvement in your character." Then, beckoning for Ratigan & Fidget to follow him into the house, Basil added, "Come on in."

With that, Ratigan & Fidget took up their bags & other items, & followed Basil inside. As soon as the two left the porch, Basil shut the front door closed, & led Ratigan & Fidget down the antechamber. Then, sporting a broad, toothy smile, Basil grandly bowed, & gestured to the stairs leading down into the (newly-refurbished) living room, where Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, Mrs. Judson, & Dr. Dawson were seated on a large purple couch & an azure loveseat. As he walked with Ratigan into the sitting area, gazing around the place with a mixture of childlike awe & delight, an impressed Fidget said, "Wow, nice..."—he paused to think of a good word—"...crib you got here!"

"Well, thank you very much, Fidget!" a flattered Basil replied, as he followed the bat & Ratigan down the stairs into the living room.

"You know what 'crib' means, Basil?" Fidget asked curiously, sitting down with Ratigan on a fuchsia chaise lounge.

"Well, as the Master, Sherlock Holmes, once said, 'American slang is very expressive sometimes'," Basil answered, taking his seat by the Flavershams on the couch.

Everyone couldn't help but laugh at Basil's humorous quotation. "Yes, Fidget & I would certainly agree with you on that!" Ratigan told the detective in between chuckles.

When the laughter finally subsided, Mrs. Judson rose out of her seat, & asked, "I suppose you're all getting hungry for lunch?" Picking up the hem of her dress in her paws, the mousekeeper began scuttling off to the kitchen, as she exclaimed, "Well, don't worry! I'll have some herbal tea & cheddar-cheese crumpets out for you in a jiffy!" Then, going off on a bit of a fursonal tangent, Mrs. Judson added (more to herself than the others), "And maybe, perhaps, some cheese soufflé a la Stilton...Mr. Basil loves that! [13] And I think I might also prepare some cheese tarts...& cheese soup...& cheesemallow delights..."

Once Mrs. Judson had finally exited the living room, & her chattering was silenced with the shutting of the kitchen door, Dr. Dawson (who had been sitting by Mrs. Judson on the loveseat) turned to face the Flavershams. Hoping to begin a conversation with his friends, the medical mouse asked, "So, uh, how have you been doing since you returned to Mouse London?"

"Not too well, I'm afraid," Hiram replied with a heavy sigh, & a shake of his head. "But I'm certain Basil's already told you about our present dilemma back at the toy shop. It started out nicely at first, but, then, things began going downhill..."

But Hiram tried to smile, as he added, "We're hoping they'll get better in time, though."

"Don't worry, Mr. Flaversham," Dr. Dawson said optimistically. "I'm sure they will." But the portly physician did not want to leave the toymaker & his family in a gloomy mood by bringing up bad memories, & he decided to change the topic by asking, "So, uh, what's Olivia been up to lately?"

"Aside from all the recent rigamarole, & the holiday with our relatives in Scotland, it's been pretty much the usual for her during the last few months, I suppose," Hiram answered.

"And who's that charming young mouse with you, Olivia?" Dr. Dawson asked, pointing to the boy seated beside the little Scotsmouse. "Is he a friend of yours?"

"He's my cousin, Timmy Flaversham," Olivia replied. "He's older than me by about 4 years; he's older than my older sister, Arden Flaversham by about 1 year; I'm 5 this year, so my sister’s 8, and he's about 9."

"I'm his beautiful, but autistic twin sister, Tina Flaversham." said Cousin Tina.

"Ursula Flaversham's my name," said Cousin Ursula. "I'm 1 year younger than Timmy and Tina. I am the same age as Cousin Arden. But I am 3 years older than Cousin Olivia and my sister, Samantha."

"And I'm Olivia's twin cousin, Samantha Flaversham." added Cousin Samantha, "Like Olivia, I'm also 5 years old this year, but I'm 2 minutes younger than she is."

"Oh, well, then, it's a pleasure to meet you, Cousin Timmy! You too, Arden! Same for you, Cousin Tina! Nice to see you too, Cousin Ursula! Charmed, Cousin Samantha!" Dr. Dawson said genially, as he got up out of his seat, & went over to shake Timmy, Arden, Tina, Ursula, and Samantha's paws. Then, after he had done so, he gave a bow, & tipped his lavender-orchid English cap, as he introduced himself: "I am Basil's trusted associate, Dr. David Q. Dawson."

"Oh, right, the fat guy!" Cousin Timmy blurted out upon recognizing the name. "Timmy, watch your mouth!" Cousin Tina scolded her brother. When he saw the hurt look on Dr. Dawson's face (& the glares that his relatives were giving him), Timmy rephrased his earlier statement: "I mean, yeah, of course, I know you, Dr. Dawson. Cousin Olivia, Cousin Arden, Tina, Cousin Samantha, & Uncle Hiram told me all about you." Then, Timmy immediately turned, & started slapping a paw against his forehead in reproachment, as Tina angrily reprimanded her brother, "Aw, that was a real nice thing to say! Way to go, Timmy! Now, you just insulted Livvy & Basil's friend! Aw, Timmy, you're so stupid, stupid, stupid!"

But Dr. Dawson was a very forgiving fellow, & he bore no anger at Cousin Timmy for his faux pas; the only thing he felt was concern that the lad might hurt himself! Hoping to stop Cousin Timmy from slapping his head anymore, Dr. Dawson gently took the mouseling's paw, & pulled it down to place it at his side, as he said in his kindly voice, "Oh, Timmy, I'm sure you didn't mean any harm. It's quite all right, I assure you...really." He then gave a smile at Cousin Timmy, who calmed down, & sported a look of relief (while also returning the smile). "Well, if you say so," Cousin Timmy uttered with a small hint of hesitancy. "But, seriously, it's very nice to meet you." With that, he began to shake Dr. Dawson's paw, which he'd still been holding in his own. "You know, I kinda like shaking hands," Cousin Timmy remarked pleasantly.

Continuing to shake Cousin Timmy's paw, Dr. Dawson gave a chortle of amusement, & made his amiable response: "Yes...I do, too, Timmy." When the two mice were finally done with their handshake, Dr. Dawson went back over to the loveseat, & took his place in the spot he had been sitting in. No sooner had Dawson done this, than Basil sniffed the air, & turned to face the others with a large smile. "I think I smell some of Mrs. Judson's delightful cheese crumpets," Basil said, & when he sniffed the air again, he took note of their flavor: "And they're cheddar!" Soon, Mrs. Judson walked out of the kitchen to enter the living room, where she began placing all sorts of delectable treats before Basil, Dr. Dawson, Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, & Fidget—piping hot cups of herbal tea with cheddar-cheese crumpets, cheese soufflé a la Stilton, cheese soup, cheese-cake, cheese muffins, cheese tarts, cheese pie, & cheesemallow delights...Oh, what a mouth-watering assortment of delightful dairy dishes had been prepared! Taking some food for herself, & sitting down by Dr. Dawson, Mrs. Judson declared cheerfully, "Well, I think this should be enough for a 'welcoming-the-Flavershams' banquet! Dig in, everyone!" And, with that, Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, Basil, Dr. Dawson, Mrs. Judson, Ratigan, & Fidget all started eating their lunch. At one point, Basil took ahold of his cup of tea, & lifted it up high in the air, as he said, "Everyone, if you would kindly raise your teacups..." The others did so, & Basil continued, "I would like to propose a toast. To faith, family, friendship...& the Flavershams!" Basil, Olivia, her loved ones, & their friends all toasted their teacups, & brought them back down to take sips of their drinks, before they continued eating their midday meal, sharing pleasant conversations all the while. The luncheon feast seemed to go on for hours, yet it was only one hour-&-a-half before Basil & the others were finally finished with their food, & began to do away with their trash & leftovers. At this time, the muscle-mice from the moving vans started walking through the living room, going up the stairs to the antechamber, & making their way to the front door. One of the moving-mice turned to look at Hiram, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha & gave them a thumbs-up, as he said, "OK, Mr. Flaversham, we got all your stuff out of the vans, & into the house! It's all good!" "Thank you so much, Mr. Moving-Mouse!" Hiram said amiably. "We sincerely appreciate it!" The moving-mouse smiled in response, then went off to exit the house with his partners, shutting the front door behind him. Then, Hiram looked back to see Mrs. Judson going to collect the empty dishes & silverware from everyone...& the toymaker instantly thought of that delicious banquet he had helped himself to just a while ago! Smiling in contentment, Hiram rubbed his paw over his now-full stomach, as he remarked, "Well, that was certainly a satisfying lunch!" "Yes, indeed, it was, Mr. Flaversham," Basil assented. Then, with a clear of his throat, the detective added, "But, of course, that was just the first of the many surprises we have in store for you here!" "Do you know what the next one is?" Arden asked, her face brimming with excitement. "I think you'll be delighted to see it, my dear Arden," Basil replied cheerfully. "It's waiting for you up in Mrs. Judson's room, on the third floor." With that, everyone got up out of their seats, & followed Basil up the staircase to the second story of the house, where Basil's bedroom, Basil's study room, Dr. Dawson's room, & three other bedrooms were. On the east side of the hallway, next to the door of Dr. Dawson's room, was an open threshold allowing entry into a "hidden" passageway with a staircase. Basil led Olivia & the others up this stairway, & they soon got to the third floor, where six bedrooms (including a special one for house guests) were. The first room on the east side of the hallway was Mrs. Judson's room, & Basil, the Flavershams, & their friends made their way into the mousekeeper's fursonal chambers. Mrs. Judson's bedroom was of a modest & humbly-decorated sort, with melon-orange walls that perfectly complemented the tangerine-orange carpet. A humble, but nice-looking, light fixture dangled from the ceiling, illuminating the room with a bright fluorescent glow. On the east wall, a small, simple bed with a mahogany headboard & a pale-beige mattress (covered with pale-beige sheets & a warm, fuzzy burnt-orange blanket) rested below a big square window, which was flanked on either side by large fuchsia curtains with golden draw-tassels. A pair of violet velvet chairs stood in the center of the room, with a mahogany armoire resting behind them on the north wall. A mahogany sewing table & a mahogany writing desk (both with matching chairs) were on the west wall, separated from one another by the door that led into the room. On the south wall, there was another door that led into Mrs. Judson's closet.

"I'm sorry there's not too many places for you to sit," Mrs. Judson said apologetically, as she watched Basil, Dr. Dawson, the Flavershams, Ratigan, & Fidget enter her quarters. "But feel free to take any available spot you like!" Basil & Dr. Dawson took their seats in the violet chairs, while Ratigan & Fidget sat down on the bed. After dragging out the five other chairs in the room, & bringing them closer to where Basil & Dr. Dawson were sitting, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Samantha sat down in the chairs that went with the writing desk, Hiram sat down in the chair that went with the sewing table, & Olivia climbed up into her father's lap. Once everyone had made themselves comfortable, Basil asked Mrs. Judson if she could kindly fetch two trunks from his room downstairs. The mousekeeper was all-too-eager to oblige, & she went off to make her way down to the second floor. In a matter of minutes, Mrs. Judson came back with a pair of large wooden chests, which she proceeded to drag across the floor of her room. "OK, Mr. Basil, here are the trunks!" Mrs. Judson announced, as she finally placed the container in front of the Flavershams. Then, beaming with joy, she told Olivia & Arden, "Wait'll you see what's inside it, my dears!" And the mouselings could hardly wait to find out what treasures were stored in those two trunks!

(CUE MUSIC: "March" from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Idomeneo", as performed by Leonard Rosenman)

After getting up out of the chair he'd been sitting in, Basil turned to address the Flavershams with a broad smile on his face. To Olivia & Arden, he said happily, "Now, my dear Flaversham hip young ladies can go about without wearing clothes that are fashionable these days." He chuckled, then continued, "One of you needs to travel in style...yet still wear clothes that make her feel comfortable on the inside & the outside." As Basil was saying this, he gestured to the trunks, Olivia crawled out of Hiram's lap, & Arden got up from the couch, before running over to them.

When Mrs. Judson opened the trunks for Olivia & Arden, the mouselings gazed upon their contents in absolute delight! Inside Olivia's trunk, she could see a wide variety of outfits—a pair of baby-blue footy pajamas with a matching hair-bow, a light-blue party dress with matching shoes & accessories (opera gloves, a beaded necklace, a hair-bow, bloomers, & a silk purse), a stylish blue bathrobe, a royal light-yellow ball gown with matching shoes & accessories (silk gloves, bloomers, & a hair-bow, along with a gold tiara & necklace), a white blouse with a plain blue jumper dress & white bloomers, a blue jumper dress (decorated with a red plaid pattern) with a baby-blue long-sleeved shirt & green leggings, a blue one-piece swimsuit (with a frilly skirt, bloomers, puffy sleeves, and a big baby-blue bow in the front, along with a blue hair-bow to match), a frilly mint-turquoise dress with a matching garden-style hat, periwinkle-blue bloomers, matching shoes, & a necklace, plenty of jewelry & ornaments...& then some!

As for inside Arden's trunk, it had a wide variety of different outfits—a fuchsia silk nightgown with matching accessories (bloomers, a camisole, & a hair-bow), a pink party dress with matching shoes & accessories (opera gloves, a beaded necklace, bloomers, a silk purse, & a hair ribbon), a stylish fuchsia bathrobe with matching slippers, a royal fuchsia ball gown with matching shoes & accessories (silk gloves bloomers, & a hair ribbon, along with a gold tiara & necklace), a fuchsia one-piece swimsuit (with a frilly skirt, bloomers, puffy sleeves, & a big pink bow in the front, along with a fuchsia hair ribbon to match), a lavender taffeta dress with with matching shoes & accessories (leggings, a garden-style hat, & a necklace), plenty of jewelry & ornaments...& then some!

"So, Olivia, which outfit would you & your sister care to try on first?" Basil asked with a smile.

After thinking for a moment, Olivia took out the white blouse, blue jumper, & white bloomers. "How about this, Basil?" she said.

"Excellent choice, Miss Flaversham!" Basil replied, giving Olivia an approving pat on the shoulder. Having selected the first outfit that she would try on, Olivia ducked into the closet to change...& within a few moments, she came back out, now dressed in her blouse, jumper, & bloomers with her hair-bow, socks, & shoes. After emerging from the closet in her new ensemble, Olivia started to pose & model for everyone; the others couldn't help but gush & fawn in absolute adoration when they saw her!

"Oh, Olivia, you look so adorable in that outfit!" Hiram praised his daughter.

"You look just like a real farm girl!" added Cousin Samantha.

"I got it going on!" Cousin Tina echoed.

Clasping her paws together near her head, a smiling Mrs. Judson said, "You'll be the life of the party at school! All your friends will be complimenting you, & telling you how pretty you look!"

"Well, I must say, Basil...Olivia is becoming quite a beautiful young lady," Dr. Dawson commented, turning to face his comrade with a smile.

"Yes," Basil replied, nodding his head in agreement. "Yes, she is, Dawson..."

And Olivia & Arden's fashion show had only just begun! After modeling in her blouse, jumper, & bloomers, the mouseling did the same with the baby-blue nightwear, the light-blue party outfit, the blue bathrobe, the light-yellow ball outfit, the blue plaid jumper, baby-blue long-sleeved shirt, & green leggings with her hair-bow, socks, & shoes, the blue swimwear, the mint-turquoise-&-periwinkle church outfit, & several other ensembles of clothing—each prettier than the last. When Olivia finished posing in the last outfit from her costume trunk, she went up to take a few bows & curtsies for her audience, who showered her with applause.

Arden followed suit with the fuchsia nightwear, the pink party outfit, the fuchsia bathrobe & slippers, the fuchsia ball outfit, the fuchsia swimwear, the lavender church outfit, & several other ensembles of clothing—each prettier than the last. After Arden finished posing in the last outfit from her costume trunk, she, too, went up to take a few bows & curtsies for her audience, who showered her with applause.

"Ah, well-done, Olivia!" Basil marveled, "Splendid job, Arden!"

"Jolly good show, girls!" Dr. Dawson complimented.

"Yeah!" Fidget cheered, as he pumped a wing into the air. "All right!"

"Très magnifique, Madamoiselle Olivia! Toi aussi, Madamoiselle Arden!" Ratigan exclaimed in French, clapping & praising the little Scotsmouse & Arden with his usual extravagance. "Bravo! Bravo! Encore!"

"Totally cool!" Cousin Tina smiled.

After taking a few more bows & curtsies for their adoring fans, Olivia & Arden ducked back into the closet to change into their regular "indoor" attire, & once they had handed the recently-worn outfits to Basil (who placed each one back in the trunk), Arden sat back on the couch while Olivia climbed up onto Hiram's lap...but not without hugging Basil, & thanking him for taking the time to purchase all those wonderful new clothes for her & Arden. Basil, of course, told the girls that they were quite welcome, & that he was all-too-glad to buy the garments (some of which, he added, had been custom-made—tailored especially for Olivia & Arden!). After saying this, Basil asked, "Now, would you like me to show you to your new rooms?"

"Yes," replied Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, & Fidget in unison.

"All right!" Basil exclaimed, before taking Cousin Timmy by the paw. "Timothy..."

Trying not to act annoyed, the lad gently interrupted, "Excuse me, Mr. Basil, but could you please call me 'Timmy'? I like that a lot better."

"Certainly, Timmy," Basil said, making sure to emphasize the name. "And I's like to be called 'Tina'." Tina agreed with her twin brother. "Of course, Tina," Basil smiled. "If you'll just follow me, I'll take you to your...fursonal quarters, as it were." With that, Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina accompanied Basil on the short walk from Mrs. Judson's room to the last room on the west side of the third-floor hallway. Upon opening the door to their new chambers, the twins took a look inside. The walls of the bedroom were painted a gentle lavender, & the floor was covered in deep-purple carpet. Resting against the north wall, were two large white chests (both of which were empty). Two comfortable beds (one made out of a lilac mattress with purple pillows, a white mahogany headboard, lilac sheets, & a warm, fuzzy purple blanket, the other made out of a pink mattress with red pillows, a white mahogany headboard, pink sheets, & a warm, fuzzy red blanket) stood at the left & right of the wall; a small white nightstand with drawers of stuff was on the left side of the bed, its top surface void of any decorations; a small pink nightstand with drawers of stuff was on the right side of the bed, its top surface beautifully decorated with fake daisies & roses. On the east wall, next to the door (& directly across from the foot one of the beds), was a big-screen TV that stood on a white bureau of empty dresser-drawers. On the south wall of the room, there was a door leading into a closet, a white wooden bookcase with empty shelves, & a small white table with matching chairs (which stood in the southwest corner).

"Oh, my gosh..." Cousin Timmy & his sister managed to mouth in unison, but Basil took their astonishment for disappointment: "I will admit, kids, I took a lot of liberties with designing the spare rooms. I didn't know how many fursons would be coming over to stay at my house, let alone how many boys & girls would be lodging, so forgive me if the room is a little too effeminate for your tastes. If you'd like, I can set you up in another room down the hall..."

"Nah, it's cool!" Cousin Timmy replied pleasantly, as he ran over to his bed, & flopped down onto the mattress. "I like this room just fine!" added Cousin Tina, as shee, too, ran over to her bed and flopped down onto the mattress.

"Oh, well, all right," Basil said nonchalantly. "On a sidenote, I didn't know you loved the color purple so much..."

"Are you kidding?" Cousin Tina blurted out excitedly. "It's one of my Top 5 favorite colors! Heck, it's my most favorite color ever—period!"

"What are your other top favorite colors?" Basil wondered aloud. "Just out of curiosity."

"Hmm, let's see," Cousin Timmy said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. Then, counting on each of his fingers, he answered, "After purple, there's white, pink, red, & yellow. But I also like golden, cream, blue, violet, cornflower, fuchsia, rose, scarlet, beige, crimson, strawberry, silver, lavender, lilac, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera...Oh, speaking of lavender & lilac, those are two of my favorite flowers, but I love roses the most. Want me to go on, or should I stop here?"

"Oh, no, by all means, pray continue!" Basil replied politely. "I'm quite interested in learning about you & your sister, Timmy."

"OK!" Cousin Timmy said. "So here's some other information about me: I'm fluent in French, Spanish, & Latin, but I'd like to learn a bunch of other languages—especially German. I'm fond of playing the piano...although I haven't taken lessons in a few years. I like the touch of Shetland wool, lace, silk, & satin. I love all kinds of fruit, but I absolutely hate vegetables! I'm single, but eagerly seeking. I enjoy reading female-empowering materials, & several women are on my list of famous historical figures. I also enjoy certain activities of a feminine nature, including—but not limited to—playing with dolls, sewing, painting, sketching, gardening, & writing in diaries...& I am not ashamed to admit that. I'm Catholic, but not an orthodox follower. [14] My blood type is O+. My favorite game is checkers, & I've won several trophies for winning tournaments, including the coveted 'King Me' award...And that's all the important stuff."

"My goodness, Timmy," Basil finally remarked, "you certainly are a very interesting young mouse. I didn't know you had such..."—he paused to think of a good word to use—"...unusual tastes & hobbies—& I mean 'unusual' in the nice sense of the word."

"Don't we all have unusual tastes & hobbies, Mr. Basil?" Cousin Timmy asked with a coy smile. "Don't we all?"

"Yes, I suppose that's true," Basil replied, unable to stop a smirk of amusement from appearing on his face. "Even the most famous of rodents will have their fursonal eccentricities & idiosyncrasies. After all, I have my strange tendencies to play the violin at odd hours of the evening, engage in weird—& often malodorous—scientific experiments, & do target practice indoors, among others. I've also had a bad habit of being incredibly untidy...though I've been trying to work on that in the last couple of months. Leaving the house in a constant mess is not something a normal rodent would do."

"Mr. Basil," Cousin Tina said bluntly, "you are anything but normal."

"That's also true," Basil retorted playfully, "but if you're going to have rodents staying in your home, you need to achieve some degree of tidiness. Not just for purposes of cleanliness, mind you, but also for safety reasons, when you have fire hazards & whatnot to consider..."

"'Fire hazards'?" Cousin Tina repeated, suddenly feeling a bit nervous.

Basil was quick to pat the young mouse on the shoulder, however, as he assured him, "Oh, don't worry, Tina. In all the years my family has lived in this building, there hasn't been a single fire, & I've yet to learn of any that happened before my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather moved here in 1581. [15] And with the sprinkler system & fire extinguishers I've recently installed, our house is sure to remain fire-free!"

"Well, that makes me feel a lot better," Cousin Timmy said, instantly perking up. "So, you said something about indoor target practice...Can you show us more?"

"Perhaps later, Timmy," Basil replied. "Right now, I think I ought to help your relatives get settled in."

"OK, you do that," Cousin Tina said contentedly. "Timmy & I will just stay here, & enjoy our nice room..." With that, Timmy & Tina flopped back down onto their beds...&, from what Basil could tell, they appeared to be quite enjoying it—so much, in fact, that they began bouncing up & down on the mattressws! Unable to hold back a chuckle, Basil continued to watch Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina while he made his way to the door, & after he stepped outside (& shut the aforementioned door behind him), he went back to Mrs. Judson's room, where Hiram, Dr. Dawson, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, Fidget, & the mousekeeper were still lounging around.

"Miss Arthuria-" Basil began.

"That's Arden." she corrected him.

"Arden," Basil corrected himself. "How would you like me to show you your room next?"

"Why, Mr. Basil!" Arden exclaimed, "I'd like that!"

"Let's go then." Basil smiled, as he took Arden by her right paw and led her upstairs to the second floor.

When they came upon a closed door, Arden looked confused. "The door's locked," she said. "Maybe someone is working on it." Basil shook his head and chuckled warmly. "See for yourself, Arden!" he said.

Basil opened the door, & Arden took a look at the interior of her fursonal chambers. The walls were painted a bright coral-pink, & the carpet was a bright fuchsia. A large round window was on the south wall, flanked on either side by large fuchsia curtains with golden draw-tassels. The window-seat below it was a mahogany bench (which was covered with fuchsia plush padding, & decorated with pink & hot-pink pillows). A large fuchsia chaise lounge stood in the southwest corner, its lower end pointing towards the window. On the west wall, by the higher end of the chaise lounge, Arden's magenta armoire & red closet stood near the door. On the other side of the door, next to a tiny night-light, was a large bookcase (the shelves of which were filled with Arden's books & periodicals, along with some of her pictures & mementos). Across from it, on the north wall, was a large desk that held Arden's diary, a few framed photos, a drawing board, some sketchbooks & scrap-journals, a small lamp, & a brightly-colored paw-made jar full of writing tools.

A large canopy bed with coral-pink mattresses & matching bedsheets & pillows, large fuchsia curtains (with golden draw-tassels) on all four sides (attached to the fuchsia canopy), fuchsia blankets, white linens, a warm, fuzzy pink blanket, & reddish-brown mahogany bedposts (with a headboard of the same color & material) rested with one side on the east wall. A rocking chair was close to the bedside, with a rainbow rug laid out in front of it in the center of the room. At the southeast corner of the room, in front of the canopy bed (& to the left of the window), were a large color TV & remote that rested on top of a small dresser. All around the chamber, a pawful of pretty drawings & paintings of Arden's favorite things were displayed upon the walls (a number of these pictures had been done by the mouseling herself, & placed in the empty space of wall above the desk; all of Arden's other artworks were safely stored in the desk's drawers, as well as in a large trunk in the hollow underneath the desk). Arden's numerous boxes, bags, & chests of toys & games were scattered in different parts of the room, & her remaining possessions were stored in other places.

"Wow, Mr. Basil!" Arden exclaimed in excitement, "I didn't know pink was one of my favorite colors!" She paused. "And I especially love fuchsia-pink! It matches the color of my dress."

"Well, I did hope to put plenty of fuchsia-pink in it." Basil remarked.

Arden immediately went into her bedroom, sat on the edge of her bed, took off her shoes, and placed them on the floor beside the right side of her bed.

"Now, Mr. Flaversham," Basil said as he took Hiram by the paw, "if you'll follow me down to the second floor, I'll show you to your new living quarters." With that, the toymaker & the detective exited Mrs. Judson's room, went down the staircase to the second story of the house, & approached the door to the center room on the west side of the hallway. When Basil & Hiram entered the chamber, the latter was surprised to see how it looked! Hiram's new bedroom / workshop was very large (which was a good thing, considering that he needed plenty of space to do his work in). The walls were painted a cheery chartreuse, & the carpet was a bright olive-green. A closet of clothes & old things, along with the Flavershams' large family portrait, was on the north wall, & a small, simple bed (made out of a white mattress with a white pillow, a mahogany headboard, white sheets, & a warm, fuzzy crimson blanket) rested below a big square window (flanked on either side by large fuchsia curtains with golden draw-tassels) on the west wall. An oaken bureau of dresser-drawers (filled with tools & other toymaking supplies) rested on the south wall. A large wooden table with a small stool sat in the center of the room, & rows of blank shelves decorated each of the 4 walls. My goodness, Hiram marveled to himself, Basil had my room all planned out! He even bought new furniture for me! But he didn't have to go through all this trouble, & yet...& yet...he was kind enough to do it, anyway. I should tell him "thanks"...Turning to face his friend with a grateful look in his eyes, Hiram said, "Before you go, Basil, I just want to say 'thank you' for your hospitality & everything. You've really worked hard to make us feel welcome here, & I don't know how Olivia, Timmy, & I can possibly repay you for your kindness to us!" "Oh, don't worry about it, Hiram," Basil replied warmly. "It was my sincerest pleasure to do this for you." Then, turning to make his way upstairs, he added, "Well, I'll leave you to get settled in, & I hope to see you again sometime this evening." With that, Basil departed, & Hiram stepped into his room, continuing to stare at its interior in sheer awe; even when he went to sit down on the mattress of his bed, he couldn't tear his gaze away from the furniture, walls, & carpet that had been so meticulously arranged. Boy, Basil sure knows how to fursonalize a place! How did he know that chartreuse & olive-green were two of my favorite colors? ________________________________________ Having decided to show Olivia her room later on in the evening—as a surprise—Basil went to lead Ratigan & Fidget out of Mrs. Judson's room next. "All right," the detective told the ex-criminals as he escorted them through the third-floor corridor, "there are 4 spare bedrooms—2 on the third story, & 2 on the second story. Which would you like to occupy?" "Probably one on the second story," Ratigan replied. "It'd be a bit less cumbersome to get downstairs." "Yeah," Fidget agreed, "I t'ink a room on the second floor would be good." "Very well, then," Basil said, & he led Ratigan & Fidget down the stairs to the aforementioned floor, bringing them to the last room on the west side of the hallway. Upon opening the door, Basil, Ratigan, & Fidget took a look at the place where the latter two would be lodging. It was a simple bedroom with sky-blue walls & a dark-blue carpet; on the east wall, a mahogany table (supporting a large TV with a remote control) was positioned between the main door & the door to a closet, with plenty of extra space surrounding it. The north wall was void of any furniture or trappings, but on the west wall, resting underneath a large square window (flanked on either side by large fuschia curtains with golden draw-tassels), was a huge bed (which sported a light-blue mattress adorned with a white pillow, a mahogany headboard, light-blue sheets, & a warm, fuzzy blue blanket). A mahogany nightstand with a lamp & alarm clock on its surface was to the left of the bed. In the southeast corner of the room, there was a small refrigerator, & a large bookcase & toy chest (both of which were empty) rested against the south wall. "Well, it's a lot more humbly-decorated than I imagined it would be," Ratigan finally said, "but I'm not going to look a gift dog in the mouth. [17] This room will do just fine...& I'm sure it'll be even nicer, once I add some decorations & whatnot to liven up the place!" "Yeah," Fidget muttered, nodding his head in assent. "Just one problem, t'ough...Where da heck am I goin' ta sleep? I don't got no freakin' bed!" "Had I known I would also be inviting certain rogues into my home," Basil muttered under his breath, "I would have made some additional arrangements..." When his ears perked up to the sound of the emphasized word (his hearing was just as acute as Basil's), Ratigan immediately dropped his & Fidget's valises to the floor, & turned to face Basil with an affronted glower. "I beg your pardon!" Ratigan ejaculated indignantly, planting his gloved paws on his hips. "Did you suddenly forget that discussion we had about my change in lifestyle?" "And did you suddenly forget the words 'I still don't trust you'?" Basil retorted huffily. "In any case, I have some important topics to discuss with you, so kindly refrain from inserting your input until I am finished speaking. First, let us lay out the ground rules of this house, which I expect you & Fidget to follow while you are living here. Rule #1: Do your best not to leave a mess, & pick up after yourselves. Rule #2: Bedtime is to be no later than 11:00 PM, except on holidays & special occasions. Rule #3: Food & beverage may be consumed in your room, but—again—do your best to be tidy, & dispose of your garbage & leftovers in the proper receptacles. Rule #4: If you play any media after 10:30 PM, keep the volume down low, so as not to cause a disturbance. Rule #5: If you are using any smoking products, be sure to extinguish them thoroughly when you are done. Rule #6: Refrain from making frivolous calls or unauthorized orders on the telephone. Rule #7: Refrain from using my credit cards or money, unless you are given my express permission to do so. Rule #8: Don't throw any wild parties. Rule #9: Use your best manners around company. And Rule #10: Don't touch any dangerous items in my study room—including, but not limited to, chemicals, poisons, & weapons. Do you think you shall have any trouble complying with these rules?" "Not at all," Ratigan replied earnestly, shaking his head in negation, as Fidget did the same. "Good," said Basil, & he continued: "Next, I shall outline to you & Fidget the behavior I expect from both of you. I expect you to treat everyone in this house with kindness & respect. I expect you to show consideration for other fursons' property. I expect you to be gracious, courteous, & polite to your fellow lodgers, & anyone else who may be staying here. I expect you to be on your best behavior at all times. And last, but not least, I expect you to not only follow my rules, but also the rule of the law. Do I make myself clear?" "Absolutely!" Ratigan & Fidget replied in unison, nodding their heads in affirmation. "All right, then," Basil declared. "The last thing I wish to discuss with you is the consequences for disobedience & wrongdoing. Now, depending on various factors & circumstances, there will be different forms of penalty for infraction of a rule. These include—but are not limited to—extra house chores, early curfew, early bedtime, denial of privileges, no dessert after dinner, no leisurely trips, no allowance, denial of fursonal rewards, no visiting with friends, & enforced confinement in your room for a maximum of 15 minutes. And commission of a mousedemeanor or felony will result in you being reported to the police at the earliest possible opportunity. Is that understood?" "Yes," Ratigan & Fidget answered together, bobbing their heads up & down once more to indicate that they were willing to comply with Basil's rules. "So be it," Basil said, as the look on his face became solemn & stern. "Now, I need not remind you that I am going out of my way to be generous by allowing you to stay here—when other fursons would most certainly have bolted their front doors, & notified Mouseland Yard of your whereabouts in an instant! However, to be perfectly frank, I can't help but feel a little iffy about my decision to let you into my home...for I still have my doubts as to the veracity of your claims of reformation. In my long career as a mouse detective, I've come across my fair share of thieves, vandals, & other petty offenders who were desperate to turn over a new leaf...& did so. But I can never recall meeting a criminal who desired to reform after eagerly engaging in an 8-year-long crime spree that was marked by innumerable acts of downright depravity & degeneracy. And when you also consider the fact that you have made a good deal of threats against my life—& have even gone so far as to actually act out on them—you can see why I do not totally believe your declaration that you & Fidget have changed your ways. I hope you understand that." "I do," Ratigan responded sincerely, "& I don't blame you for not believing us. If we were in your shoes, I can honestly say that we'd feel the same way." "Is that so?" Basil replied, raising a dubious eyebrow. "Yes," Ratigan said with a nod of his head. "But I promise you, Basil, you won't regret having taken us in. In fact..."—a coy twinkle appeared in his eyes—"...Fidget & I are willing to make a deal with you." "And what would that be?" Basil wondered aloud. "Well, it's like this," Ratigan explained. "Let's say that if Fidget & I remain on our best behavior, & don't get in any trouble, we may be allowed to stay with you & the others at Lower 221B Baker Street. But—& here's the catch—if Fidget &/or I commit a crime, or we otherwise return to our evil ways, you have my full permission to kick us out of your house...& turn us in to Mouseland Yard!" Then, extending an outstretched paw towards Basil, he asked, "So, what do you think? Does that sound like a fair deal to you?" It only took a moment for Basil to make his decision, & as he shook hands with Ratigan, he answered, "Most certainly!" When Basil & Ratigan finally drew their paws away from each other, the detective added, "I have to admit, Ratigan, you set some rather heavy conditions for that proposal." "Well, I wouldn't have done so if I wasn't being sincere about it," Ratigan replied. "Even a detective of your intelligence ought to know that. I mean, let's face it—if I were still evil, making a deal like that with you would be like making a deal with the devil...or would that be 'a deal with God'? Ah, well, no matter; you see my point, right?" "I suppose I do," Basil said, nodding his head. "That's good to know," Ratigan remarked with a pleasant smile. "Well, you can leave us alone now. Fidget & I need to unpack, & we'll need a few extra hours to get settled into our new quarters. I guess we'll meet up with you again at around dinnertime—oh, when is that, by the way?" "6:00 PM," Basil answered, as he turned to make his way to the door. "All right, then," Ratigan said, as he & Fidget began opening their valises, removing their contents, & sorting them out on the floor. "See you later, Basil." With that, Basil exited the room, & began walking down the second-floor hallway, now pondering over the conundrum of how Fidget would be able to sleep in his new home. Since bats usually liked to sleep upside-down, Basil would need to make a special bed for Fidget...but not to worry! He could probably make one out of stuff from the upstairs attic, like a hammock—yes, a hammock would be perfect for Fidget's bed! Basil could hang it from the ceiling, wrap it up so that it was fashioned like a cocoon, & stuff it with blankets & pillows. Hopefully, he could get it done after dinner tonight, so Fidget wouldn't have to sleep on the couch or chaise lounge downstairs... No sooner did Basil decide to do that, than his thoughts were suddenly interrupted when he felt the sensation of bumping into somebody. After taking a jump back, Basil looked down, & saw little Olivia standing at his feet. The mouseling gazed up at the detective with her usual cheery smile, a happy twinkle in her bright blue eyes. "Hello again, Basil," she greeted. "What are you up to?" "Oh, nothing much, really," Basil answered. "I was just taking your father & cousin to their rooms, & Mrs. Judson is putting your new clothes away. It'll be a few hours before dinnertime, & I was hoping to take you to your room after we ate, so you won't know where any of your stuff is until then...I'm sorry for the inconvenience. It's just that I wanted your room to be, well, a surprise..." "That's OK, Basil," Olivia replied in her typical easygoing manner. "I like surprises!" "Oh, that's good to know," Basil remarked, relieved that Olivia wasn't mad at him or anything like that. "I just hope you have something to keep you occupied until supper." "Well, there is some stuff in the suitcase I brought with me when I came in," Olivia said. "And I also have my dancing doll that I got for my birthday back in June...Oh, have you ever seen it?" "No, I'm afraid not," Basil answered, shaking his head in negation. "Come with me, & I'll show it to you!" Olivia said, beckoning for Basil to follow her downstairs. The sleuth walked after the little girl, accompanying her on her descent down the staircase, & once they made it to the first floor, Olivia went over to the large purple couch, where her suitcase now lay open. Among the things Basil could see in the valise were crayons, a coloring book, some small toys, a couple of children's novels, a little board game, & what looked like a fuchsia blossom with a golden wind-up key on the side. Olivia took the toy flower into her paws, then sat down on the floor, as Basil took a seat across from her. "Watch what happens when I do this!" Olivia told Basil in an excited whisper, as she placed the lily in front of her, & wound up the key. To Basil's amazement, the fuchsia flower's petals unfolded to reveal a white-furred ballerina mouse, which slowly rose up onto her petite feet, & started to perform an arabesque...but, unfortunately, the tiny dancer got her right shoe caught on the carpet, & she fell flat on her side, wiggling her legs about in the air for a few seconds, before finally returning to her blossom form. "Oops," Olivia said, looking down at the toy fuchsia with a sheepish smile. "I guess we're gonna need a smoother surface." "Not to worry, dear," Basil said with an encouraging grin, as he took the flower into his paws, got up, & began to make his way across the living room, with Olivia following suit. "The dining table should suit our purposes!" After approaching the north side of the living room, where the entrances to the kitchen & dining room were, Basil opened the door to the latter chamber, & he & Olivia stepped inside. The dining room (which was to the right of the kitchen) had a dark-turquoise carpet, & all the walls were painted a solid lavender, with white floor-molding going all along the bottom of these walls. In the center of the room, there rested a large, long mahogany table, surrounded by mahogany chairs with violet-colored silk padding (there were enough of these chairs to seat 23 rodents); a centerpiece (comprised of a multicolored array of faux fruit in a blue china bowl) lay in the middle of the table. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, & pretty pieces of art adorned the walls. Awed by the beauty of all the decorations, Olivia couldn't help but gaze around the dining room in a state of childlike wonder, until her ears perked up to the sound of Basil pulling out two of the chairs surrounding the table. After going to take her seat in one chair (with Basil sitting across from her in the other one), Olivia took the toy blossom out of Basil's paws, & wound up the key once more. "Watch," the little Scotsmouse said in a hushed tone. The two mice gazed on with rapt stares, as the fuchsia flower transformed into the ballerina mouse, & began to dance across the surface of the table, with Olivia's favorite song playing in her built-in music box. "My heavens, Olivia," Basil remarked in astonishment, "it's absolutely amazing!" "I know," Olivia said dreamily, watching the dancing doll with a faraway look in her eyes. "It's the best toy my daddy ever made for me...And even when you look at it up close, you can hardly tell it's been fixed." "Oh, it got broken?" Basil asked. "Yes," Olivia answered, slowly nodding her head (while still watching the ballerina carry on with her performance). "I don't know exactly what happened to it, but I guess it doesn't really matter now..." For the next few minutes, Basil & Olivia did not say anything, but continued to gaze at the dancing doll, as she whirled, twirled, plied, & pirouetted across the table, performing her lifelike moves with gracefulness & fluidity of motion that rivaled those of the finest dancer in the Royal Ballet Troupe. Only when the music box's tiny lullaby finally finished playing, did the ballerina end her dance with a deep bow, & after the doll had transformed back into a fuchsia flower, Olivia & Basil continued their conversation with one another. [17] "So, where are Ratigan & Fidget?" Olivia asked the older mouse. "They're getting settled into their new room on the second floor," Basil replied, before switching the focus of the talk to a thought that had crossed his mind a few times: "Speaking of the devil, as it were, I've kind of been wondering why you haven't been showing an adverse reaction to their presence." "You mean, like, freaking out or something?" Olivia said. "Well, I only did it the first time they showed up, but when they came into the house, I didn't feel scared around them." "Oh, why is that?" Basil inquired. "Because I knew that they wouldn't hurt me or my family & friends," Olivia replied innocently. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have let them in. Something must have happened to Ratigan & Fidget...something that made them change!" "Perhaps so," Basil said with some hesitancy, while nodding his head in agreement. "And now that I think about it," Olivia said thoughtfully as she picked up her toy lily, "maybe it was Ratigan & Fidget who saved us from those muggers..." "Wait, what muggers?" Basil questioned quizzically, now becoming intensely interested. "Oh, sorry, I forgot to tell you," Olivia replied. "On our way to your house, while we were driving down Westerly Road, this pair of mean muggers hijacked our car, & forced Daddy, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Samantha, & me to get out. Then, they grabbed us, & tried to steal our stuff from the fleet of moving vans that was traveling with us...but Ratigan managed to distract the muggers, & they ran away..." Olivia gasped when she realized what this meant to her. "Ratigan & Fidget saved me & my family! They did change into good rodents! I just know it!" Basil didn't know how to react to Olivia's comment. On one hand, Olivia was still a child—granted, a very smart & intelligent one, but not entirely free of the ingenuousness that usually characterized her current stage of life. She had yet to learn about the ways of the world, & she didn't seem to understand that she couldn't always trust everything her eyes saw...yet she was thoroughly convinced that her assumptions were true! Something inside Olivia told her that Ratigan & Fidget were not the same fursons they used to be...but was it blind naivety that led her to make that conclusion, or was it a sense of the inner workings of a rodent's soul? Basil had no way to tell for sure; he could only hope that Olivia was right. At the same time, though, the mouseling's words prompted the detective to wonder if, maybe, his earlier suspicions about Ratigan & Fidget might have been wrong... ________________________________________ (CUE MUSIC: "Arioso With Cello & Piano", by Johann Sebastian Bach)

Nighttime had now fallen over Mouse London. The stars shined brightly in the clear, cloudless, midnight-blue skies, & the full moon cast a pale glow over Baker Street, illuminating the houses that lined the pavements with its heavenly radiance. In the hallway on the second floor of Lower 221B, Basil (dressed in his robe, tie, & other house apparel) was leading Olivia (dressed in her baby-blue footy pajamas with the matching hair-bow) down to the last room on the east side of the corridor, which was right across from Ratigan & Fidget's quarters. As Basil escorted Olivia through the passageway, holding the mouseling by the paw, the detective said with a smile, "So, Miss Fl..."—he corrected himself—"...Olivia, I think you're really going to enjoy your new room that I set up for you."

"You set up a whole room for me?" Olivia asked, looking up at Basil with an excited expression.

"Yes, indeed," Basil replied, nodding his head in affirmation. When he & Olivia finally reached the end of the hallway, & approached the entrance to Olivia's room, Basil added sheepishly, "Though I will admit I'm not really the best..."—ahem—"...when it comes to interior decorating." Upon saying this, Basil opened the door, & Olivia took a look at the interior of her fursonal chambers. The walls were painted a bright sky-blue, & the carpet was a bright azure. A large round window was on the south wall, flanked on either side by large blue curtains with golden draw-tassels. The window-seat below it was a baby-blue bench (which was covered with blue plush padding, & decorated with ocean-blue & baby-blue pillows). A large baby-blue chaise lounge stood in the southwest corner, its lower end pointing towards the window. On the west wall, by the higher end of the chaise lounge, Olivia's light-blue armoire & blue closet stood near the door. On the other side of the door, next to a tiny night-light, was a large bookcase (the shelves of which were filled with Olivia's books & periodicals, along with some of her pictures & momentos). Across from it, on the north wall, was a large desk that held Olivia's diary, a few framed photos, a drawing board, some sketchbooks & scrap-journals, a small lamp, & a brightly-colored paw-made jar full of writing tools.

A large canopy bed with sky-blue mattresses & matching bedsheets & pillows, large baby-blue curtains (with golden draw-tassels) on all four sides (attached to the blue canopy), baby-blue blankets, white linens, a warm, fuzzy, blue blanket, & blue mahogany bedposts (with a headboard of the same color & material) rested with one side on the east wall. A baby-blue rocking chair was close to the bedside, with a rainbow rug laid out in front of it in the center of the room. At the southeast corner of the room, in front of the canopy bed (& to the left of the window), were a large color TV & remote that rested on top of a small light-blue dresser. All around the chamber, a pawful of pretty drawings & paintings of Olivia's favorite things were displayed upon the walls (a number of these pictures had been done by the mouseling herself, & placed in the empty space of wall above the desk; all of Olivia's other artworks were safely stored in the desk's drawers, as well as in a large trunk in the hollow underneath the desk). Olivia's numerous boxes, bags, & chests of toys & games were scattered in different parts of the room, & her remaining possessions were stored in other places.

As she stepped into her new living quarters, Olivia appeared to be quite delighted with her lodging accommodations; Basil, however, still acted awkwardly about it. Drumming his fingers together, & tugging at his white shirt collar, Basil said with a sheepish grin, "I hope the room's not for you."

"Oh, no, Basil. It's perfectly fine," Olivia said, turning to face Basil with a pleasant smile. "Besides, blue is one of my favorite colors...especially when it's baby-blue." With that, Olivia scampered off, looking around the bedroom in fascination.

Trying vainly to hide the smile on his own face as he watched Olivia, Basil replied, "Well, I made sure to put plenty in, as well. But in any case, I'm glad that you're happy & satisfied with your..."

Just before Basil could finish the sentence, Olivia turned to face the detective, & smiled at him again, before quickly going over to hug him. "I want to thank you, Basil, for doing all this for me," Olivia told the older mouse, as she wrapped her little arms around his legs. "Not just the room, I mean...but also for letting me, Arden, & Daddy..."

"Don't forget your favorite cousins!" a certain mouseling yelled from his room upstairs. "...Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina...come to stay with you," Olivia continued. "You've done so much to make our lives better in these dark times...& I honestly don't know how I can repay you for it."

"You don't need to repay me, Olivia," Basil said tenderly. "It's the least I can do for dear friend."

Olivia could hardly believe her ears. Basil had actually called her his friend! He now considered Olivia to be something more than a client or acquaintance...He viewed her as a confidant, a companion, a comrade! To Olivia, this was a sign that the relationship between her & Basil had greatly changed in the last few months...&, now, she was beginning to see why Basil was so eager to help her & her family, & to make them feel comfortable in their new home. That was the kind of thing friends did for each other...Olivia was so touched by Basil's confession, that her eyes brimmed with tears of joy, which gently rolled down her face. With his thumb, Basil brushed a few tears off of Olivia's cheek, & as soon as he did so, he saw the mouseling smiling up at him once again—this time, in her usual happy way. "There we go," Basil said warmly, patting Olivia's cheek in a fatherly manner. "Well, I think it's best we get along to bed now."

With that, Olivia scurried over to her canopy bed, & jumped joyfully onto the mattress, before landing on her back...& relaxing, as she let her weary arms lie spread out beside her, her pajama-clad legs & feet dangling over the bedside. Trying not to laugh at Olivia's antics (but having a hard time keeping it in), Basil said, "No, Olivia, not that way..." Olivia then crawled under the covers, but instead of lying down, she peeked out from under the comforter. "Struggling" to keep himself from laughing, Basil said, "Try again, dear..." Olivia crawled out from under the covers, & lay down on her back, but she wiggled her feet about wildly beneath the blankets. By this point, Basil couldn't contain his amusement any longer. "Come here, you!" the detective said, as he rushed over, & sat down on the bedside...before leaning over, & tickling Olivia! He did this for several minutes, even to the point where Olivia rolled over on her side, & curled into a ball, clutching her sides as she laughed & giggled with hysterical glee. After a while, Basil finally stopped tickling Olivia, & the mouseling settled down, but her face continued to sport that merry expression, as she breathed slowly for air, & turned over to lie down on her back. Olivia looked up at Basil with yet another smile, & Basil returned the gesture, as he tucked in her covers, & said, "All right,, you go to bed." A beat of silence passed, before Basil added, "But before you do, I have one more surprise for you today." Olivia's smile widened when she heard this! "Close your eyes, dear," Basil said, & Olivia covered her little peepers with her paws. Then, Basil leaned over to reach for something, & came back with a smiling teddy bear in his hands. Holding the stuffed animal in front of Olivia, Basil cried in a sing-song voice, "Ta-da!" Olivia opened her eyes, & fawned in delight when she saw her latest present. As soon as Basil handed Olivia the teddy bear, the little Scotsmouse instantly started cuddling it; it appeared that she had already taken quite a liking to the toy. "My, erm, deduction skills told me you would be most fond of it," Basil said. "I am, Basil," Olivia replied, snuggling the teddy bear. "He's so cute & cuddly." "I said the same thing when I held him in my arms at night," Basil remarked in a tender tone-of-voice. "You see, that teddy bear belonged to me when I was a young mouseling around your age...&, now, I'm giving it to you." [19] As if Olivia couldn't have been made to feel any more astonished than she was before, the words she had just heard, prompted the little lass to gaze at Basil with wide eyes & a jaw that hung open in pleasant surprise. "Really? You mean it, Basil?" Olivia exclaimed, overcome with joy. "Oh, thank you so much!" Unable to contain her overwhelming feelings of heartfelt happiness, Olivia quickly wrapped her arms around Basil's waist, & hugged him tightly. Basil smiled, & gently returned the hug, as he said, "It's no problem at all, dear." Then, once he & Olivia had parted from their embrace, Basil helped the girl lie back down, & tucked in her covers once more...before placing the teddy bear at Olivia's side. "There," Basil said pleasantly. "I think you two will have a most excellent slumber tonight." With that, Basil got up off the bed, & prepared to leave the room, but he stopped in his tracks when Olivia suddenly held up a paw, & called out, "Wait!" Upon hearing this, Basil immediately returned to Olivia, & sat back down on her bedside. Looking down nervously, but occasionally glancing up shyly at Basil, as she squeezed her paws together, Olivia said, "Um...I don't want to be a bother, Basil, but, um...usually, just before I go to sleep, Daddy sings me a lullaby, or reads me a bedtime story. But he's asleep right now, & I don't want to wake him up." "I can't really blame your father, Olivia," Basil said offhandedly. "He's had a very long day today." "So, um...if it's all right with you," Olivia asked a little nervously, "would you mind, um...well...maybe telling me a bedtime story, or something like that?" A bedtime story? Basil couldn't believe what Olivia was asking him to do! Everything up to this point had been fairly easy for the detective...but, now, he had come across a real challenge! "Well," Basil replied hesitantly, "I don't usually make up bedtime least, not very good ones...but I guess I could try." He softly cleared his throat, then began: "Once upon a time—that's how bedtime stories usually begin, right?—there was, hmm...let's see...a princess named Olivia...who, kidnapped by a fire-breathing dragonfly..." A beat. "No, no, that's silly. Dragonflies don't breathe fire. Then again, they aren't usually known to kidnap princesses...much less for being ferocious..." After a thought, Basil continued, "Well, I suppose dragons would be a more likely suspect—I mean, villain! But to be frightfully honest, I'm fursonally not too sure that dragons actually exist...At least, as far as I know. But I suppose I could be wrong; perhaps, there are dragons flying about somewhere, breathing fire, & kidnapping princesses, & whatnot..." [20] Basil's voice trailed off, however, when he saw Olivia sporting a jaded look on her face; his attempts at telling a twilight tale had certainly not yielded successful results. If I'm going to have mouselings in the house, I'll need to get used to a lot of things—like telling bedtime stories, for one! Maybe, I can get some pointers from the parents who live in the neighboring houses...Oh, how I wish I'd thought about that in the first place! "Well, as I've said, Olivia," Basil said sheepishly, "bedtime stories aren't really my strong suit...but I know what is!" Basil quickly got up, & exited the room, as Olivia watched him leave. A few minutes later, Basil came back in, & sat down in the rocking chair at the side of the bed, clutching his prized—& newly-repaired—violin. Upon noticing this, Olivia exclaimed excitedly, "You got your violin fixed!" "Yes, indeed, I did," Basil said. Then, tuning the instrument, he added, "Although it does sound a bit out-of-tune on the fourth string...I suppose I'll need to get a new one...but..."—ahem—"...anyway..." Leaning back in the rocking chair, Basil closed his eyes, tucked the lower end of the violin under his chin, put the bow to the strings, & started to play a soothing lullaby for Olivia, who lay down under the covers, & began to relax, still cuddling her teddy bear. As he played the peaceful melody on his violin, Basil sang in a rich baritone voice... (CUE SONG: "Basil's Lullaby") Hush-a-bye, mouseling, close your eyes And listen to my lullaby Drift away on clouds of white To Dreamland, love, & sleep for the night Be at peace, mouseling, have no fear Nothing can hurt you while I am here I'll be there all night to stay by your side, And, sweet little angel, with you, I'll abide Rest your head & fall asleep Into a slumber so peaceful & deep May your rest be oh-so serene As you hear my gentle voice sing Hush-a-bye, mouseling, close your eyes And listen to my lullaby Drift away on clouds of white To Dreamland, love, & sleep for the night... Before long, Olivia finally fell fast asleep. After carefully putting up his violin, Basil smiled at Olivia, before leaning over to kiss her on the forehead, & tuck in her covers. As he did so, the detective whispered tenderly, "Goodnight, Olivia. Pleasant dreams." Basil then leaned back into the rocking chair, & adjusted his furson enough so that he would be able to sleep comfortably. Then, with a clap of Basil's paws, the lights came off, plunging Olivia's bedroom in darkness. [21] (CUE MUSIC: Abridged version of "March To The Scaffold", from Hector Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique") For the next several minutes, Olivia & Basil both slept peacefully...but, at some point, Olivia began tossing & turning in bed, a troubled look appearing on her face. No doubt, the dreams that were filling her head, were not those of a pleasant sort... ________________________________________ Olivia opened her eyes to find herself on a dingy-looking road in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Mouse London's East End. She was still dressed in her pajamas & hair-bow, but was now also dressed in her blue bathrobe...but how did she get out of Basil's house, & end up here, in this miserable place? She needed to find someone who would give her directions to Baker Street, so she could get back home! No doubt, her family & friends were worried sick about her! With that in mind, Olivia cautiously began making her way down the filthy, lonely, desolate street; as she walked, a cold chill of howling wind stirred against Olivia, rustling the hem of her bathrobe, & making her shiver occasionally. The once-starry skies were now covered in clouds—dark, menacing, & threatening to bring forth rain. And Olivia could have sworn she heard eerie, ghostly cries moaning & calling out to her...She quickened her pace, trying to find a way out of this scary place. (Oh, how she hoped she could get out of this wretched neighborhood soon!)

After walking a bit further down the road, Olivia suddenly gasped when her ears perked up to a loud clattering sound coming from a nearby alley. Her heart began to race, & she could feel her pulse accelerating with the adrenaline that was now surging through her veins. Her mind was consumed with terrifying thoughts of what could be lurking in the shadows, just waiting to come out & attack her...Then, the sound of angry yowling forced Olivia to stop in her tracks. Her eyes widened in absolute terror when she saw a big, mean-looking tomcat emerge from the adjoining alleyway. The cat took one look at Olivia...&, with yellow eyes that blazed with ravenous hunger, he began chasing after the frightened mouseling, who took to her heels, & ran as fast as she could. All the while, Olivia stared ahead of her, only looking for possible places to hide, only thinking of escaping the jaws of death that were nearing ever closer to her...

Finally, after much running, Olivia spotted another alleyway, & she went to hide among the garbage that littered its floor. Thankfully, the cat did not see her, & continued to run down the street, failing to realize that he had lost track of his prey. When she no longer heard the cat's footsteps, Olivia carefully emerged from the pile of trash, & stepped out into the open air...but her dangers were not over yet. Just when Olivia thought she was safe, she was suddenly approached by a large snake—a formidable, fearsome serpent with blood-red skin, cruel black eyes, & a forked tongue that flickered in & out, in & out...

The snake eyed Olivia lustfully, hissing as he approached her. Opening his fanged mouth wide, the snake attempted to take a bite out of Olivia's foot, but the mouseling darted away at the last second, making a break for the alley exit. Olivia proved to be too fast for the snake, so he decided not to chase her, & slithered away. When Olivia had seen the snake disappear in the same direction that the cat had gone, Olivia walked back into the now-empty alley, & sat down on a stray pebble, wondering how on Mouse Earth she was going to find her way back to Baker Street. She needed help, but who could she turn to in order to get it? Where could she go to find temporary shelter—a safe place to hide from all the dangerous things that wandered the East End highways & by-ways in the dark of the night?

Olivia became so lost in her thoughts, that she didn't notice the sound of footsteps approaching her slowly...ever-so-slowly...They were soft at first, but became increasingly louder & louder. Before Olivia even knew it, she was suddenly grabbed & ambushed by a gang of thugs! The villainous mice were of sordid appearance, & dressed in shabby clothing, with many of them holding a weapon of some sort; all of the hooligans leered at their newest victim with evil grins & cruel gazes.

Olivia struggled fearfully in the thugs' grasp, trying desperately to break away from them—but, alas, to no avail! Despite all the kicks & punches she threw, the mouseling was eventually overpowered, & a few of the thugs managed to grab onto her wrists & ankles, immobilizing her. Then, another one of the ruffians stepped toward Olivia, & took out his weapon—a long dagger with a glimmering, gleaming blade made of the purest stainless steel...which wasn't to be stainless for much longer. Almost as quickly as he had produced it, the thug put the dagger to Olivia's neck, ready to slice it across her throat...& thus end her short life... ________________________________________ In a matter of a split-second, the thugs & their weapons disappeared, & Olivia awakened in her bed with a gasp, suddenly snapping out of her terrifying dream. Panting for air, Olivia glanced fearfully around the room, trying to become aware of her surroundings, trying to assure herself that she had never left Basil's house...Then, at last, her racing heart began to slow its pace, & her pulse that had been raging so wildly like a runaway river, eased its flow again. But even though she had calmed down a little, Olivia was still haunted by the terrible monsters that had plagued her slumber. She could not shake away the feelings of immense terror that the nightmare had given her. She remained traumatized by the horrible scenarios that had played out in that awful vision...

(CUE MUSIC: Abridged version of "String Quartet In G Minor", by Claude Debussy)

Unable to cope with her ordeal, Olivia (no longer wearing her bathrobe over her pajamas) cuddled her teddy bear tightly, as tears fell from her eyes, & she started to cry gently. At this point, Basil (who had been sleeping in the rocking chair) stirred awake, his rest interrupted by what he initially thought was a strange sound; when he pulled back the curtains of the canopy bed, he was surprised to see Olivia sitting up beneath the blankets, crying into her paws. "Oh, poor Olivia, dear, what's the matter?" Basil asked compassionately, as he picked the distraught girl up out of her bed, & sat her down in his lap. "Is something wrong?"

After crying for a second or two (& sniffling), Olivia looked up at Basil with teary eyes, as she made her sorrowful reply: "I had a bad dream." Then, collapsing against Basil in her state of distress, Olivia continued crying, her hot tears staining the fabric of Basil's robe.

As he felt Olivia's tiny arms wrapping around him, Basil started to remember all the times when, during their first encounter, the detective had treated Olivia—the mouseling who he would come to consider as one of his friends!—in a not-so-friendly manner. He could not deny that he had been cold—even indifferent—to Olivia, at a time when she was in desperate need of emotional support & stability. When she sought comfort & consolation, he did not give it to her. When she needed a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to relate her problems to, he did not make himself available. But now that Olivia had helped him to become more sensitive & more open with his emotions (among other things), Basil didn't anticipate that he would have those problems anymore. In fact, he was quick to comfort Olivia, doing his best to ease her troubled spirit.

"Don't worry, Olivia, it's OK," Basil said tenderly, gently hugging the girl, as he patted her back with one paw, & caressed her fur-hair with the other. "Everything's all right." Olivia kept on sobbing, uncomforted, but Basil did not waver in his attempts to console her: "My sweet, I would never let anything terrible happen to you! You have nothing to worry about, dear. Everything will be OK...Shhh, it's going to be fine, angel." Basil gently kissed Olivia on the forehead & cheek to make her feel better, but the distressed child continued to cry. Patting Olivia on the back, & hugging her, Basil said reassuringly, "There, there...There, there...Hush, now, Olivia...Don't be scared...It's all right..." When his efforts to comfort Olivia proved to be in vain, Basil finally asked, "Why don't I sing you my lullaby again to help you feel better?"

Olivia sniffled, then took a moment to wipe at her nose with her paw, before sadly answering, "OK, Basil..." Olivia then tightened her embrace around Basil, who continued to gently pet Olivia, stroking her face & fur-hair, as he tenderly cradled her in his arms, swaying back & forth in the rocking chair. All the while, Basil kept on singing his lullaby to Olivia. During the first & second reprises of the song, Olivia gradually fell asleep again...but before her eyelids fluttered closed, she stopped crying, & formed a peaceful smile on her face. Basil's berceuse had calmed Olivia, & helped to put her soul at ease, chasing away the dark monsters of her nightmares. After watching Olivia sink back into untroubled slumber, Basil carefully lifted her out of his lap, & tucked her back into bed, placing her teddy bear at her side; he then gave Olivia one last hug, followed by a fatherly kiss on the nose. As Olivia continued to rest peacefully, snuggling under the covers, Basil sat at the mouseling's bedside, patting her head, & smiling down at her in an affectionate manner. For the next hour or so, Basil kept watch over Olivia, making sure that her sleep remained undisturbed by nightmares (although, in the event that she were to have another one, he would be there to comfort her again). When Olivia did not show any signs of having bad dreams, Basil finally decided to leave her side, but as he quietly tiptoed out of the bedroom, he continued to look at the dozing Olivia with that warm, kindly expression. Somehow, the Great Mouse Detective knew that taking the Flavershams in was the best way to help them out, & he had no regrets about allowing the family to lodge with him; it certainly helped bring him much closer to his friends! But for all his foresight, Basil couldn't even begin to imagine what else would result in the aftermath of his fateful decision... ________________________________________ [1] Shortly before their collapse into poverty, the Flavershams purchased a television.

[2] In order to find potential customers for the Flavershams' toy shop, Mr. Altoid, Sophie, & other friends & neighbors of the family did thorough searches in the Mouse London Yellow Pages, & made a daily routine of calling every number listed, jotting down the name of each furson who accepted their offer to show support for the Flavershams' business.

[3] For those of you with curious minds, the full address on the envelope is: Basil Of Baker Street Lower 221B Baker Street Marylebone, Westminster, London, England, UK 13125-W1U Incidentally, in the United Mouse Kingdom, US & UK postal codes are combined together (e.g., "77665-E8", "32802-SW6", "90210-NW6", etc.). This is yet another one of the recent developments that came about during the Month Of Change. At the recommendation of Madame Ratburn & Anya, Queen Mousetoria ordered a reform of the United Mouse Kingdom's mail service, & a set of 5 numbers were added to the traditional 3-character codes. Each combination of these new numbers represents one of the different districts covered by the second half of the postal code. (For example, the ending W2 covers the Paddington, Bayswater, Hyde Park, & Westbourne Green districts of Mouse London; the 5-number combinations for each of these districts are 14017, 06200, 72434, & 61744, respectively.)

[4] Normally, only rodent pedestrians, promenaders, cyclists, vendors, & building owners or inhabitants may use the sidewalks, but exceptions may be made if one is traveling to a mouse building with a garage, carport, or driveway (such as Basil's house). In such cases, the pavements can be used for automobile travel, as long as the driver sticks to quiet residential streets (or roads that do not usually have a lot of pedestrian activity), watches out for fursons who may be in the way, & takes great care to follow safety rules. Additionally, if a furson should use the sidewalk for vehicular travel, they can have their automobile moved from the street onto the pavement. First, the furson calls the number of one of the offices of Mouse London's local Mobility Service, & a crew is dispatched to the assigned area, where they proceed to place a window-washing scaffold on the side of the curb. The furson's automobile is then moved onto the scaffold, & the Mobility Service crew members use paw-cranked winches to bring the makeshift lift up to the level of the sidewalk; after that, the furson's automobile is brought out onto the pavement, & made ready for use... ...or, if possible, a street-driver can park his / her automobile in one of many pint-sized parking garages—large, hollowed-out areas in the sidewalk-curbs that have holes drilled in at the top, so that rodents may take a staircase or elevator leading up to one of the mouse buildings above. And one last note regarding rodential driving: In the mouse world, one always drives on the right side of the mandated by Queen Mousetoria, President William McKingsberg, Emperor Kurosawa Tenshi, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Czar Nicholas Romano, the Maharajah Of Bengistan, Queen Liliuokalani, Eva & Juan Ratón, & the rulers of all other mouse countries, colonies, & territorial possessions in the article pertaining to travel & transportation in the International Rodential Assimilation Treaty Of 1897.

[5] In the film version of GMD 2, my fanfic character Fanny Marlow is supposed to make a cameo as the beggar mousette. However, since that technically goes against the "rules" established by my personal fanon, that isn't the case for the fanfiction version of the story.

[6] Although you won't really notice this until you read later chapters, I turned the "only foot" joke into a running gag for this sequel.

[7] One of my candidates for Ratigan's stand-in voice (don't think of it as a replacement, per se) in the film version of GMD 2 is Malcolm McDowell (who I also envision providing the voice of Shellington Batly, along with several bit roles). And that is why I made the first half of the "poor place" sequence one big tribute to one of my favorite Malcolm McDowell movies, "O, Lucky Man!".

[8] According to the GMD Disney Classics storybook, Basil's house was located on a hill. However, since the film doesn't show Sherlock Holmes' house on any hilly terrain, I surmise that the building (& the surrounding area) was actually near a hill.

[9] I assume that's what Basil does with his necktie, anyway. I swear, every time he wears his mouse detective uniform, the tie looks blue to me for some reason, & when he wears his robe & house attire, the tie looks turquoise. Go figure.

[10] Just so you know, I also decided to make a running gag that involves Basil blushing whenever a girl kisses him. Prepare to get plenty of giggles out of that!

[11] I simply had to write that part, as I couldn't resist going for a touch of humor. Hopefully, that gave you a few laughs.

[12] As previously mentioned in Chapter 3, my estimate for Ratigan's age at the time of the movie is—believe it or not—17. And if Ratigan is 11 years Basil's junior (going by the logic of this story), that would make Basil 28 at the time of the original GMD.

[13] Yet another reference to the original "Basil Of Baker Street" book series by Eve Titus.

[14] We mustn't forget that there are liberals & conservatives of every faith, no matter where their religious doctrine lies.

[15] Yes, Basil's family has been living at Baker Street for that long... XD

[16] One of two rodential equivalents of "(don't) look a gift horse in the mouth". (The other is "[don't] look a gift miniature horse in the mouth".)

[17] The scene with the dancing doll was actually done on the spur of the moment; I wanted to find a way to smoothly progress from Basil's hallway encounter with Olivia, to Olivia's revelation of the Flavershams' rescue from the muggers. At the same time, I also wanted to give Basil & Olivia a chance to do some extra bonding with one another.

[18] It is my understanding that stuffed bears technically did exist in the Victorian Age / (Old) Mousetorian Age; if you look closely, you can even see a teddy bear in the opening scene & "humans' toy store" sequence in the original GMD. But, strictly speaking, the humans didn't start calling them "teddy bears" until later on (at least, as far as our version of history goes). As for the mouse world, however, I'd like to think that rodents got a head start on using the name.

[19] One of the differences between the final version of the GMD 2 story, & previous drafts, is that Basil is having a bit of difficulty getting adjusted to his new role as a father-figure to his young wards. Of course, he'll eventually get the hang of telling bedtime stories (along with other "fatherly" duties)...but I thought Basil's fursonal transformation would come across as a lot more believable if I portrayed him having some problems in the process.

[20] Another blessing of the Neo-Mousetorian Age / Month Of Change: the Clapper!