‘My name is Freddie, Freddie Fingernail. I didn’t mean to startle you. I thought you might be the groundskeeper. I didn’t want to leave the safety of the cart if you were. I really do apologize.’
‘Well, in that case,’ says the mouse, clenching the ragged cigar firmly between his teeth in the corner of his mouth, ‘I accept your apology. My name is Ralph.’
At that moment, the most beautiful lady mouse Freddie has ever seen, her bonnet of red rose blooms adorning her golden-brown hair, strolls by, singing a song, twirling a brightly coloured paper parasol, wooden handled umbrella from a juice flavoured drink. ‘My name is Isabella. I live under the floor boards of the groundskeeper’s cottage by the main gate. I am on my way to sing in the mouse choir on stage beneath the people theatre.’
‘I’m very pleased to meet you both,’ says Freddie. ‘Would either of you know where St. Thomas’s Church is?’
Ralph shakes his head.
‘St. Thomas’s Church? Now let me think, the name does sound familiar. Why, yes, I remember now where it is. The mouse choir performed near there recently on a road trip.’
‘Where is it?’ cries Freddie excitedly.
‘Why, it’s…oh, but it’s getting late,’ says Isabella, looking at her watch. ‘If I don’t hurry I will miss the opening curtain and, after all, I am the star of the show.”
The front door of the mansion opens as a large, marmalade-coloured cat appears on the porch step.
Freddie and Ralph dive through the wooden latticework under the porch.
They shout a warning to Isabella, but she is singing so loud she does not hear them. She strolls happily along, swinging her umbrella, unaware of the dark, evil eyes of the cat upon her.
‘Do, re, me, fa, so, la-a-a-A-A-A-AHHHHHH…’ cries Isabella, throwing her umbrella into the air with fright seeing the cat leap from the step towards her.
Freddie races from cover, grabs the umbrella in the air, and valiantly fights off the slashing claws of the cat, as saliva drips profusely from the cat’s sharp, glistening teeth. The startled cat scampers back into the mansion.
‘Freddie, thank you so much, you saved my life!’ cries Isabella, hugging Freddie while kissing him on his cheek. ‘I will bring the ‘Guinea Pig Express’ in the morning. Together we shall find St. Thomas’s Church,’ and with a departing wave of her foxglove, white flowered hand she continues on her way.
Freddie and Ralph enter Ralph’s home beneath the floor boards. They sit in armchairs in front of the red, crinkly paper fireplace Ralph had borrowed from the little girl’s doll house in the mansion.
Before he falls asleep, a sorrowful Freddie wonders if he will ever find his way home again.”
Johnny reaches down, picks up his toy boat and hugs it tightly in his arms, afraid to let his mother see he is afraid.