THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE 2: A NEW BEGINNING
A "Great Mouse Detective" Fanfiction By The Mouse Avenger
Chapter 1: Otherworldly Circumstances
Saturday, August 22, 1897
Not much time had passed after the Flaversham Case; in fact, it had only been a month since the great feat of Basil Of Baker Street. Pias Nestor coughed on the dust & dirt that filled the air, which was thick & heavy in the stifling summer heat, as he limped through a sand-saturated quarry in the West End of London. The quarry, which had been closed off to humans, was only barricaded by barriers of rope, which made it easy for little critters like Pias to sneak in when they wanted to take a shortcut to Regents Park. Being crippled in his right leg, Pias couldn't walk very well—let alone for overly-long distances—& the street he was on provided the quickest way to Regents Park; through this avenue, he could walk from the Mouse Gypsy Caravan to the park in a quarter of the amount of time it would take to use any other road! Not even the humans' construction work would stop Pias from reaching his destination—the middle-aged Mouse Gypsy was going to get to that bloody park, by Gods, & he was not going to inconvenience himself by taking any of the longer routes, because his crippled leg couldn't take that kind of strain...& quite frankly, neither could he.
Doing his best to avoid the crushing feet of the human workers (along with any objects that fell to the ground), Pias tried to maneuver his way through the quarry, as fast as his legs & wooden walking cane could carry him. All the while, however, he continued to cough on the dusty air, hoping he could get out of the sandpit before he completely lost his ability to breathe! Thankfully, after a few minutes, Pias was able to make his way out of the quarry, & as soon as he stepped out onto the cobblestones lining the street, he took a deep breath of air...& nearly gagged on the noxious stench of coal, oil, & other chemicals that was wafting from the nearby mouse factories. Gods, how much Pias yearned to breathe the fresh, clean air that once filled the atmosphere! How he wished he could go back to a time when the sunny skies of Mouse London weren't filled with smelly stenches & suffocating soot!
That infernal Industrial Revolution was to blame...It, & it alone, was the reason why Mouse London was being so dirtied up! Not to mention that it was causing a lot of social problems, as well! All the stories he had heard about mouse orphans being forced to work in sweatshops, about factory-made products causing injury & harm to consumers, about industrial labor being used as a way to exploit the rodent natives of faraway countries...it was almost too much for Pias to stomach. There was no doubt in his mind that Mouse London was well on its way to a dystopian future; next thing he knew, they would be making awful war machines, rodents who worked in simpler trades (including farmers & gardeners like Pias) would all be put out of business, & the desire for industrial progress would wipe out all desire for social progress! And those things weren't even the worst of what Pias feared would await the mouse world...
...but, as he stepped onto the grassy green of Regents Park, the Mouse Gypsy gardener's frown changed into a smile, as he took another breath...& smelled fresh, clean air, for once! Pias couldn't resist smelling that air over & over again, as he walked across the park green, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine & the sight of the flowers that filled the landscape. All around him, he could see rodent children playing together—a sign of the better changes that were sweeping through the mouse world—while their mommies & daddies watched on lovingly from their seats on pint-sized park benches. Clowns & other entertainers performed for the pedestrians & park-goers who passed by, while proud parents paraded their babies down the cement walkways in stroller-type carriages, & teenagers tried to sneak kisses with their lovers behind tall trees. The scenes that were playing out in the park were pleasant to behold, indeed...but Pias really had his eye on one particular area, right next to a large hedge maze.
This part of the park was known to local rodents as the "Pigeon Patch"; the reason it got its name was because a multitude of pigeons flocked here every day, & although there were also plenty of pigeons in Trafalgar Square (where the Mouse Gypsy Caravan was), Pias liked to come to the Pigeon Patch, because it was in a nice little part of Mouse London, he really liked the atmosphere, & it was a lot safer to wrangle a pigeon here than in Trafalgar Square, what with all those humans walking around...
Every day, Pias would come to the Pigeon Patch to look for a specimen to take back home; there, he would enlist the pigeon's help in plucking the worms out of the Mouse Gypsy Caravan's garden, where he grew fruits & vegetables for all his friends to eat. Not earning any money for his work (unlike the street performers & craftsmice who lived in the caravan), Pias could not afford to buy gardening gloves...but touching dirt & soil with the bare paws was against the Mouse Gypsies' code of cleanliness, & Pias didn't want to get in any trouble with the council of elders (much less risk getting banished from the caravan!).  That, & the fact that plucking a worm by paw was an extremely disgusting job...So, Pias always went to the Pigeon Patch to seek the help of a fine flying friend in getting the worms out of the garden. (Hey, as long as a pigeon did the job, it wasn't technically against the Mouse Gypsy Caravan's rules, right?)
After reaching the Patch, Pias began looking around for a good specimen...& before too long, he found the perfect pigeon to help him out in the garden! Pias smirked craftily, as he reached out his arms, & prepared to wrangle the pigeon...but no sooner did he make a huge leap to grab the bird by his leg, than the pigeon became startled, & started flying around the Patch in a mad frenzy, cooing fearfully as he tried to shake Pias off of him. Pias, undaunted & undeterred, tried his best to maintain his hold on the pigeon, but he found it becoming increasingly hard to do so with each second that passed. At one point, Pias managed to look up, & saw a moustached mouse in motley-colored clothing approaching him on a unicycle. It was one of Mouse London's local street performers, a Frenchmouse affectionately referred to as Flip Le Bouffon. He must be entertaining at Regents Park today, Pias thought when he saw the clown coming his way. But if he's come to strike up a chat with me, he's picked the wrong time to do it!
I need to concentrate on wrangling that bloody pigeon...
Flip gave his characteristic smile, as he waved a friendly paw to Pias in greeting. "Bonjour, mon ami!" he said in French, before adding in English, "It's a pleasure to see you today, Pias! I hope you're..." Flip suddenly halted in mid-sentence when he saw his Mouse Gypsy friend trying desperately to hold onto the leg of a large pigeon...& from the looks of it, he didn't think Pias was going to be able to keep his grip for much longer. Wondering if there was anything he could do to help his comrade, Flip asked in concern, "Pias, are you having some trouble with that pigeon?"
"Don't worry, Flip," Pias tried to assure the clown, struggling to keep from being bucked off that bloody bird he wanted to wrangle. "I'm fine! I can handle it myself!"
"Are you sure you don't need my assistance?" Flip asked warily, dubious about Pias' assurances.
"No, no, Flip," Pias insisted, "it's all right...Really!"
To be perfectly honest, Flip wasn't sure that he should entirely believe Pias...but he went along with him, anyway. "Oh, très bien," he finally said with some hesitancy, "fine...if you say so." After a beat of silence, Flip added, "Well, I best be going, Pias. My public awaits." Pivoting around on his unicycle, Flip began pedaling away to join the other street performers at Regents Park, & as he made his exit, he waved "goodbye" to Pias, & said with a merry smile, "Au revoir et adieu for now, Pias! Hope to see you later!"
"Yes, yes, of course, adieu, Flip!" Pias replied, before turning back to his business at hand—er, paw. The struggle between Pias & the pigeon continued for several minutes...until the pigeon finally ended up winning, & flew away, leaving Pias sprawled out on the grass. After letting out a minced oath, Pias reached for his cane, then got up onto his feet, & began looking around for another pigeon to wrangle...but before he could spot another specimen, Pias paused to listen to the sound of faint whistling.
When the Mouse Gypsy gardener looked up towards the sky, in the direction that the sound was coming from, he saw something most unusual. Something that looked like a glowing green comet or asteroid...& it was heading right for Regents Park! Pias scrambled to get out of the way, & after dashing madly across the green, he dropped to his knees on the ground, & covered himself protectively with his arms, bracing himself for a potential collision...but, thankfully, the comet-type object did not hit him; instead, it landed into a bush that was a few mouse yards away from the Pigeon Patch, with a plume of gray smoke rising in its wake. Slowly, timidly, Pias got back up onto his feet, with his cane in paw, & started to make his way towards the bush, curious to see what was going on...but, suddenly, he stopped in his tracks, as his ears perked up to a strange sound—a haunting, hollow, almost-liturgical moan that sounded very much like it was coming from a chorus of disembodied, monotonous voices—that was carried in the air around him, filling his soul with a deep, unsettling feeling...
Upon hearing his name being called by a faraway voice, the elderly Mouse Gypsy took his cane, turned around, & began running out of Regents Park. He ran down the street he had travelled earlier, passing through the quarry, & did not stop until he reached Trafalgar Square. When he got there, he wasn't surprised to see a sea of humans strolling across the sunlit square, dressed in the height of Victorian fashion from head to toe, as they paraded through the plaza in their usual pomp & circumstance. Pias had to be careful not to get crushed by the humans' feet, as he made his way through the crowd to reach the destination that lay not too far ahead of him...
At the base of the towering statue known as Nelson's Column, unseen by the humans, was a small group of differently-painted covered wagons. This was the home of the Mouse Gypsy Caravan—a Bohemian band of outcasts, oddballs, outsiders, & other rodents who lived at the margins of mainstream mouse society, managing to make ends meet (&, yet, living by their own means) as they travelled from city to city, town to town, village to village, in eternal search of a place they could collectively call their home...but to many fursons, it seemed that these Romani rodents had, indeed, found the home they'd been looking for. For the past several decades, the Caravan had remained at the base of Nelson's Column—never once leaving the spot it was fixed in—& ever since their arrival into London, the Mouse Gypsies had lived & thrived on the cobblestone-lined grounds of Trafalgar Square, even after their human counterparts left for another land...& unless something drastic forced the Mouse Gypsies to change their minds, they intended to stay here for the rest of all eternity!
There were several reasons behind the Mouse Gypsies' permanent plans to remain in Mouse London, but one in particular had to do with the fact that they had become part of the citizenry, officially & unofficially; they continually interacted with the micefolk of the city, they were usually treated very kindly by the Englishrodents, they were being included in the annual mouse census, & Queen Mousetoria had even given the Mouse Gypsies a royal order of protection from acts of racism, ethnocentrism, or bigotry. 
And with the recent passage of Her Majesty's Code Of Social Ethics, Tolerance, & Brotherhood, the acceptance of the Mouse Gypsies by the British community was destined to never waver...Yet another sign of the positive social changes that had been sweeping through the mouse world for the past few decades! But Pias was beginning to have his doubts about how long this stage of progress would last, for if his fears turned out to be true, & the Industrial Revolution was bringing mouse society to ruin, then all those attempts to instill tolerance & brotherhood would amount to nothing!
Hopefully, Madame Ratburn can provide some answers to my questions, Pias thought to himself, as he made his way onto the grounds of the Mouse Gypsy Caravan. The place was a busy, bustling hive of activity! The air was alive with melodies of old Bohemian folk-tunes, as sounds of laughing, chattering, talking, & other noises resonated through the summer breeze. Mouselings in traditional Gypsy clothing were running about, chasing each other, playing with toys & games, & getting into mischief, while teenagers flirted, joked around, & gaily socialized with their friends (mostly conversing in their native Romani language, but with a few adolescents speaking English, as well).
Many of the youths' fathers, mothers, & other adult relatives worked diligently at sewing, painting, sculpting, weaving baskets, & numerous other forms of labor, which they performed with great craft & care. And still other Mouse Gypsies juggled, did song-&-dance routines, performed magic tricks, & put on impromptu skits for the crowds of rodents that gathered around to watch them. Yes, it seemed that all of the Mouse
Gypsies were out today...all except for one...
(CUE MUSIC: "Neptune", from Gustav Holst's "The Planets")
At the back of the caravan grounds, where Pias was headed, was a cherry-colored wagon. The outside of said wagon was decorated with mystical emblems (including stars, a stylized sun & crescent moon, & a rainbow, among others), along with brilliantly-colored paw-painted images of tarot cards, a crystal ball, & other fortune-telling items. A set of wind-chimes (crafted from pieces of stained glass) dangled from the eaves of the wagon cover, the tiny tubes tingling lightly as they swayed to & fro in the gentle breeze. A mint-turquoise sign outside the door of the wagon boasted the name of the place with ornate magenta text that said, "Madame Elizabella Ratburn, Gypsy Psychic, Fortune-Teller, & Agent Of The Otherworldly".
The inside of Madame Ratburn's wagon did not look nearly as elaborate as the exterior did; the one-room dwelling displayed humble furnishings, with no paint or paper covering the walls, & no carpet or tiles adorning the bare wooden floor. The only items of furniture to be found in the chamber were a sleeping cot, an old mahogany desk & chair, a small dining table, a makeshift cooking area, a big bookcase, & a small, cloth-covered table (with a crystal ball placed on top of its surface) that was flanked by two plush chairs. With the curtains drawn over the wagon's single window, the only light that was visible was the dim glow of a melting candle. But Madame Ratburn needed no light to see; she knew exactly what she was writing. In her seat at the desk, the old sage sat, writing on the parchment pages of a big book with leather binding. As Madame Ratburn relaxed in her chair, she "mind-moved" a quill pen, psychically dipped it in ink, & began to write a most ominous poem...
The winds of change are flowing, strongly blowing
Through our little town
Our lives keep going, never knowing
Of the danger lurking 'round
The seeds of happiness are sown,
And loving hearts unite us all,
But there's a presence threatening
To bring about our utopia's fall...
A sudden rapping on the door brought Madame Ratburn out of her deep trance, & the pen dropped from the break in her concentration, landing on the open pages of the formerly-blank book she was writing in. Turning her head aside to face the entrance to her wagon, Madame Ratburn addressed the visitor who was standing outside: "The door's unlocked, Pias. You can come in." The door to the wagon then swung open with a creak, & Pias stepped in, supporting himself with his cane as he walked into the room, & approached Madame Ratburn.
"You called, Madame Ratburn?" Pias asked, as he limped towards the elderly psychic.
"Pias, do take a seat, if you wouldn't mind," Madame Ratburn said, getting up out of her desk chair as she telekinetically scooted one of the plush chairs up over to Pias, so he could sit down in it. "I have to discuss some very important matters with you."
Pias, deciding to make himself at home, took his seat in the chair that Madame Ratburn had offered to him. "What kind of matters?" Pias wanted to know, as he made himself comfortable in his friend's house.
"Psychic matters, of course," Madame Ratburn replied, sitting down in the plush chair opposite from Pias'. The crystal ball on the table was now juxtaposed between the two rodents, its glass surface illuminated by the gentle glow of the candlelight. "For the last month," Madame Ratburn told Pias, "I have been receiving a wide variety of visions, & they're telling me that changes are in the air. The mouse world is about to be twisted, transformed, warped into something much more different than it is right now, though whether it will change for better or worse has yet to be determined...
"The improvements in society that have been slowly, but surely, developing throughout the last few decades are only stepping stones to the start of this new era that awaits us. There is much more to come in the days ahead...but I am not entirely certain as to whether we should consider those things to be good or bad, for it all depends on how Mother Fate plays her proverbial cards. I may be able to predict the future, Pias, but I cannot always do so in a clear-cut fashion; sometimes, I can tell you all the details about everything that will happen on an exact date & time...& other times, I'll only get vague vignettes of visions—little snatches & snippets of things that might happen, but not exactly in the way my inner eye sees them...The paranormal forces are quite fickle & finicky, & they can be very selective about what information they choose to provide me with. It all depends on otherworldly circumstances..." 
"Well, after taking the effects of the Industrial Revolution into account," asked Pias, "what direction would you think our world is heading in?"
Upon hearing this question, Madame Ratburn's expression became somber, & she said in a solemn tone-of-voice, "I have long feared that a movement like that would have detrimental or deleterious effects on mouse society. Ever since the Industrial Revolution kicked into high gear last month, we've been struggling & striving to bring our civilization into the future, but it appears that we are making a tremendous sacrifice for our ambitious endeavors to enter a new stage of existence, for our great city is slowly languishing in the process of industrialization...& that's not the only negative change that's afflicting our society. A bigger gap is being wedged between the lower & upper classes. Quantity of work is being valued more highly than quality of work. The land, air, & water are being tainted by pollution from city factories.
Business-owners & employers are falling prey to the vices of power & corruption.
Uncontrolled urban development comes with problems like overcrowding, poverty, & the spread of diseases. Women are receiving less pay than men—no matter how hard they work, or how well they do their jobs. I could go on & on, Pias, but doing so would just make me feel even more distressed...& also make me feel less hopeful about the future, when I have no real reason to be.
"Despite these troubling signs I've mentioned," Madame Ratburn continued with an optimistic smile on her face, "I am quite sure that there's still a ray of hope shining through the dark clouds that hang over us now! Perhaps, the poker game of life will turn out in our favor...but we must remember that, sometimes, it is us—not Mother Fate—who are blessed with the winning cards. Thus, I am determined to make things better for my fellow rodents, & I will do whatever I can to make sure that happens! While an industrial revolution, in & of itself, is not an entirely-negative thing—& doesn't have to be—the problem is finding a balance between industrial & social progress...but how can I find that balance without everyone having to pay such a hefty price for the desire to move forward?"
"Don't worry, Madame Ratburn," Pias replied with an assuring smile. "I'm sure that you'll think of a way to do it."
"You may be right, Pias," Madame Ratburn said with a nod of her head...before adding, "But you didn't just come here to hear predictions...There's something you've been meaning to tell me, am I correct?"
Pias nodded in reply, then took a moment to take a deep breath, before exclaiming excitedly, "Madame Ratburn, something strange has hit London...in Regents Park!" No sooner did Pias say this, than he saw his friend grinning from ear to ear...& lifted an eyebrow in confusion. Normally, the Gypsy psychic would consult her tarot cards or her crystal ball whenever he gave grave news like this.
Madame Ratburn, however, didn't seem to think that the news was all that grave, for the broad smile never left her face for one second as she proclaimed joyfully, "Pias, this is the very sign we've been waiting for! This is the sign that will determine what direction our society will be heading in—& I've got a gut feeling that it's going to be a positive one!" Without wasting a moment, Madame Ratburn grabbed Pias by the paw, shouting merrily, "Come along, Pias! And quickly! We haven't a moment to lose!"
After disappearing in a cloud of purple smoke, Madame Ratburn & Pias teleported to Regents Park, where they reappeared in the same place Pias had been earlier. The pigeons were still flocking together in the patch, cooing & fluttering about as they paid no attention to the world around them. Turning to face Pias again as she took her paw off of his, Madame Ratburn asked, "So, this is where you saw the strange sign, right?"
"Right," Pias answered, nodding his head in affirmation. Then, gesturing to a far-off spot with his cane, he added, "And it landed...right over there." Madame Ratburn soon realized that Pias had witnessed the faraway object make a crash-landing in the depths of the Black Forest—a large grove of bushes that were so clustered & crowded together, that they seemed to resemble the German woodlands they were named after. The "forest" was notoriously thick & dense, & no sunlight could ever filter through the leaves of the "trees", leaving nothing but shade & shadows to fill the undergrowth (& this made the moniker of the Black Forest even more appropriate). Along with the Pigeon Patch, the hedge maze, & several other attractions, it was considered by rodents to be one of the most-renowned places in Regents Park, but those who dared to venture into its depths, only did so during the daytime...for if one went into the Black Forest at night, they might never find their way back out!
Pias couldn't help but feel a little nervous at the thought of going into the Black Forest, but when he felt the gentle touch of Madame Ratburn's paw on his shoulder, his fears began to disappear, & he felt less uneasy about accompanying her in the search for the strange sign. "Lead the way, Madame Ratburn," Pias directed, as he followed his comrade to the entrance of the woods. After telekinetically pulling back a big branch, Madame Ratburn gestured for Pias to enter the Black Forest, & she soon went in after him, as the branch snapped back into place behind her, sealing the two rodents off from the outside world.
Once they had taken a few steps further into the Black Forest, Madame Ratburn & Pias began their search for the unusual object, hoping they could find it before noon. With Madame Ratburn's teleportation powers, leaving the Black Forest wasn't much of a problem...The problem was all the trouble that Pias' crippled leg gave him whenever he did extensive walking or exercise. And Pias had a feeling that that was precisely what he was going to be doing...much to his chagrin. Wherever this infernal sign is, he prayed, I hope it can't be too far away! ________________________________________ About 30 minutes later, Madame Ratburn & Pias were still continuing their search through the Black Forest. However, Pias' weak leg was starting to feel heavy, & he didn't know if he could keep moving for much longer. "How long do you think it'll be until we find that bloody sign?" he asked in a haggard & weary voice. "I think...we may have just found it!" Madame Ratburn replied with a confident grin, as she placed her paws on a couple of big branches jutting out from the "trunks" of two bushes. Pias went over to help Madame Ratburn pull back those branches, & after they'd moved them a good bit, the two rodents looked into the space that the limbs had once obscured from their view. Right in front of them, standing in a small clearing, was a tall, thin teenage mouse, positioned next to a strange vehicle that looked like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel.
Madame Ratburn & Pias gazed curiously at the stranger. She was covered in tan fur from head to toe, & her blazing red hair was tied in a large ponytail with a mint-turquoise silk ribbon. Her facial features included a prominent pink nose, a big white bucktooth, & a pair of bright green eyes that sparkled with a youthful gleam. She was dressed in a most-unusual ensemble that wouldn't have been considered appropriate for a young lady of the Mousetorian Age to wear—a pair of blue goggles was worn over her hair like a headband, while a matching pair of billowy blue "pumper-pants" covered her lower half, & a short-sleeved mint-turquoise dress with a golden waistband adorned her upper half. But she was wearing no corset, bustle, petticoat, or shoes! When they took notice of this, Madame Ratburn & Pias' facial expressions switched from those of curiosity to those of shock & surprise. The stranger, however, didn't seem to mind the looks she was being given. She just smiled, & said in a cleverly-counterfeited British accent, "Hello, old chaps! Lovely day in London, isn't it?"
For the next several seconds, neither Pias or Madame Ratburn said a word to the stranger...until, at one point, Madame Ratburn finally broke the silence, & asked, "Who are you?"
With a merry, melodious laugh that resonated through the air, the mysterious mousette sported a playful grin on her face, & countered Madame Ratburn's question with one of her own: "The question is, 'Who are you?'"
Upon determining that the stranger meant no harm, Madame Ratburn gave a friendly smile, as she went over to approach her. After stopping to stand in front of the teenager, Madame Ratburn gave a grand bow as she introduced herself: "Madame Elizabella Ratburn, famous psychic, fortune-teller, & agent of the otherworldly, at your service!"
Much to Madame Ratburn & Pias' surprise, the stranger began circling the former, stroking her chin thoughtfully as she glanced her over, scrutinizing her with every step she took. After a few seconds, while continuing to walk around Madame Ratburn, the foreign furson finally said to her, "You're 89 years old, you're a Mouse Gypsy who originally hails from Cairo, you're a mouse-rat hybrid, & your favorite colors include green & purple...Am I right?"
Madame Ratburn could barely contain her astonishment! The stranger had guessed correctly on every point! "Why, you're entirely right!" she exclaimed. "You know, now that I think about it, you remind me of an old friend of mine...Basil Of Baker Street, the..."
Before Madame Ratburn could finish the statement, the stranger beat her to it: "...Great Mouse Detective? Of course, I know all about him! My grandfather told me all sorts of stories about Basil & his adventures!"
"Your grandfather?" Madame Ratburn echoed. "I think I know who he was—er, is! Jacob DeWalters of the Mouse Detective Agency?"
"Ding-ding-ding," the stranger chimed cheerfully, before playfully poking Madame Ratburn on the snout as she added, "Right on the nose!" She couldn't help but giggle at her own joke...before finally composing herself, clearing her throat, & introducing herself, as well: "OK, so you know my last name is DeWalters, but my first name is Anya, & my middle name is 'Very Pleased To Meet You'!" Anya extended a paw to heartily shake Madame Ratburn's, as she added, "Well, all right, that last part was a joke...but I really am very pleased to meet you!"
"As am I, Anya," Madame Ratburn replied with a warm, pleasant smile, as she shook hands with her new acquaintance. After finishing & finally pulling her paw away from Anya's, the elderly psychic asked, "So, my child, what brings you here to Mouse London?"
"Well, if you must know," Anya answered, "I'm a stranger from the future..."
"Thank you," Madame Ratburn piped in, "but I already figured that out by your style of dress, your Verne-esque vehicle, & the fact that you mentioned Jacob DeWalters as your grandfather, even though he has yet to be married with children...But enough of my rambling! Do carry on."
"All right," said Anya. "Anyway, I'm a stranger from the future, & I've traveled to 1890's Mouse London in order to conduct an...experiment, if you will. You see, I want to find out whether or not creating a new technology for the Mousetorian Age will alter the future for better or worse. But I need someone to help me make all the wonderful inventions that rodents of my time use..."
Madame Ratburn gasped in delight. This was her chance to seize the opportunity to change the mouse world for the better! Quickly stepping over to Anya, Madame Ratburn said with a wide smile, "I would be more than happy to help you with your experiment, Miss DeWalters!"
"And your assistance would be greatly appreciated!" Anya replied, firmly clasping Madame Ratburn by the paw to give her another handshake. "We can get started right away, if you want! Just let me get my Time Car started up, & we can travel to your caravan at Trafalgar Square in no time flat!" 
"I look forward to that!" Madame Ratburn exclaimed excitedly, her eyes brightening at the very thought of it.
With that, Anya donned a pair of elbow-length golden gloves & a cream-colored pilot's scarf, before pulling her goggles down over her eyes, & going over to the vehicle she had used to transport herself to Mouse London. The Time Car—a blue-colored vehicle with a rather sleek design—actually looked a lot more like a rocket ship, with an open cockpit & passenger seats, a pair of large doors on either side, & jet-propelled turbine-boosters in the back. Anya opened the doors, allowing Madame Ratburn & Pias to make their way into the passenger area, & after taking her own seat in the cockpit, Anya took the controls. When everyone had buckled their seatbelts, Anya turned to face her new friends with a huge smile. "Everybody ready for take-off?" she asked. When Madame Ratburn & Pias nodded in affirmation, Anya's grin became more adventurous, as she turned her head back to face the dashboard, shouting, "Then let's sally forth!"
Almost immediately after Anya had pressed the "start" button on the control panel, the Time Car whirred to life, & lifted off, crashing through the canopy of the Black Forest as it ascended into the air. Madame Ratburn & Pias both braced themselves as they became introduced to the sensation of flying, feeling the rush of the wind against their fur...but after they got used to the ride, the two rodents both smiled as they looked out over the scenery whizzing beneath them, dozens of mouse miles below. Mouse London seemed so small from where they were, & the fursons & objects on the city streets looked like little toys. To Madame Ratburn, this was the greatest thing she had ever experienced in her whole life! Even with all the psychic powers she had at her disposal, Madame Ratburn could never have imagined that, decades from now, rodents would be making vehicles like the one she was riding in! And Anya said that she had all sorts of wonderful inventions to create for the new technology...Madame Ratburn simply couldn't wait to find out more about them, as soon as she & her friends got back to the Mouse Gypsy Caravan! In the meantime, however, the old sage was perfectly content to enjoy the ride home with Pias & Anya, throwing her arms up in the air with childlike glee, as she hooted & hollered happily all the while... ________________________________________ A half-hour later, Anya landed the Time Car in Trafalgar Square, & made her way onto the main grounds of the Mouse Gypsy Caravan with Madame Ratburn & Pias, who were eager to introduce her to their "family". After getting to know the other Mouse Gypsies, Anya finally bid them "farewell", & followed Pias & Madame Ratburn into the latter's wagon.
After she & her friends had all entered the one-room chamber, Madame Ratburn magically produced a third plush chair, which joined the other two at her table. Then, she, Pias, & Anya all went over to sit down at said table, getting comfortable in their seats, while Madame Ratburn provided herself & her guests with a humble, but delicious, breakfast of steak, eggs, fruits, cheese pancakes with maple syrup, yogurt, & baked pastries (with glasses of chocolate milk to wash it all down). "Now," Madame Ratburn said to Anya as everyone began tucking into their morning meal, "why don't we begin our discussion about this new technology you have in mind?"
"Sure," Anya replied with a nod of her head, before continuing (with occasional pauses to take bites of her food), "& we can start with basic descriptions of all the inventions & concepts of modern conception! While we're eating, I think I should launch our 'meeting of great importance' with the topic of kitchen appliances, & then move on to other appliances, before discussing all the other inventions & stuff—I'll show you my diagrams & manuals after supper. Anyway, first, we have what's called a 'microwave'. Basically, it's like a small oven, only you use it for heating food & drinks, as opposed to baking. The microwave has a heating device built into the machine, & there's a big plate inside that you put the food or beverage on. It has a big door with a little keypad on the side, & you can punch in the number of minutes &/or seconds that you want the food or beverage to be heated up by the microwave. The keypad also has programmed settings for things like making popcorn. But another thing you should know about microwaves, is that you should never put metal silverware in it..."
And, so, the conversations continued, as Anya went on to explain the wonders of "talkie" films, Technicolor, CDs, color pictures, boom-boxes, stereos, radios, PC computers & laptops, IPods, airplanes, rollerskates, skateboards, bikes & mopeds, electric lights (& electricity in general), automobiles, toasters, running water, indoor plumbing, videos, VCRs, DVDs, DVD players, processed food, preservatives, new kinds of musical instruments, & a whole bunch of other things too numerous to list...Before Madame Ratburn & Pias even knew it, it was already noon when Anya had gotten to the last invention she planned to introduce to Mouse London! "And, last, but not least," she said, "there's television, also known as 'TV' or 'the telly'. It's basically like a talking box with moving pictures, & it has different channels that play different shows or movies. You can manipulate it manually via the dials & buttons on the console...or you can be lazy, & use what's called a 'remote control', which has a bunch of buttons that you can press to enter the number of a channel, change the channel, change the volume, mute the volume, turn the TV off or on, & other things of that nature."
With the quill pen & notepad she held in her paws, Madame Ratburn made sure to write down every last bit of information, as she had done ever since the meeting started (although she did have to ask Anya to repeat her explanation of the microwave). After jotting down a few more facts & figures, Madame Ratburn finally asked Anya, "So, basically, as part of your time-altering project, you're saying that we will be both be required to invent TVs, talking movies, CDs, radios, color pictures, boom-boxes, stereos, computers, & all those other things that you've mentioned to me?" When Anya nodded in response, Madame Ratburn's face lit up with yet another big grin, as she exclaimed, "Those things are perfect! Just what we need for our new technology!"
"Well," Pias said with a smile on his own face, "if your experiment turns out favorably, I look forward to tasting the fruits of your proverbial labor! I simply can't wait to see how these changes will improve the lives of the micefolk of London as never before!"
"Don't forget the entire United Mouse Kingdom, along with the rest of the mouse world," Madame Ratburn told Pias with a waggle of her forefinger. "They're going to receive the same new technology as we are."
"Oh, well, congratulations to them!" Pias added pleasantly. "I only hope it won't take you very long to accomplish your goals."
"With the help of a mystical mouse with magic powers, the finest inventors of the Mousetorian Age, & an inventor, scientist, & engineer from the future," Anya replied with a wink, "not to mention feedback & suggestions from citizens, it shouldn't take more than a month for us to get the new technology started. Of course, this will be an ongoing process, & we can anticipate that the aforementioned technology will be eternally evolving & developing as time goes on..."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Pias blurted out, practically hanging on the edge of his seat with excitement. "Let's get to work!"
"And, so, we shall!" Madame Ratburn declared in determination, sealing her new partnership with Anya with a hearty pawshake. Today was going to be the dawn of a brand-new era in the mouse world, that was for certain!
(CUE MUSIC: 1st movement of Franz Joseph Haydn's "Concerto No. 2 In D For Cello") Meanwhile, unaware of the strange & sudden events that were taking place in London, the rest of the mouse world carried on normally. The countryside of the Scottish Highlands remained peaceful & undisturbed on this pleasant August afternoon, as golden rays of sunshine bathed the verdant pastures & rolling hills in their wonderful, warm glow. Bubbling brooks & roaring rivers flowed through the grassy meadows, & puffy white clouds drifted lazily across the bright blue skies. Beautiful blossoms of variously-colored flowers decorated the lush landscape, & birds nested in the branches of tall, towering trees, some of which bore delicious fruits & nuts. One of these trees in particular—a large apple tree—loomed over the land of the vast yard outside a pair of wooden farmhouses (both built for mice) that were resting not too far away from each other. The bigger of the two buildings had a height of two stories, with large square windows (flanked on either side by tartan-plaid curtains), a black shingled roof, a brickwork chimney, & red paint covering the exterior. Inside the farmhouse, all appeared to be quiet; one would think that nobody was home...that is, until the front door swung open, & two little mouselings stepped into the threshold.
The first mouseling—a young girl of 5—was very small and slim for her age, with tan fur covering her body. Her features were, for the most part, delicate, with a small dark red heart-shaped nose poking out from between her chocolate brown eyes that sparkled with a youthful gleam. Her cheeks were wide & curvy, her paws & feet were small, & a pair of large, round ears perked up on either side of her head. A pair of white panties was set between her legs & fastened at her waist. Tucked behind her left ear was a big red hair-bow that complemented her outfit—a white collar with a forest green bow (with two sashes sticking out from the back), a light blue shirt with long sleeves, & a blue miniskirt (decorated with a red plaid pattern) that went down to her knees, which went well with the white socks and black Mary Jane shoes covering her feet. This mouseling's name was Olivia Flaversham.
The second mouseling—a young girl of 8—was also small & slim for her age, but she was a little taller than Olivia. On the contrary, she had the same tan fur, wide, curvy cheeks, dark red heart-shaped nose, chocolate brown eyes, large, round ears, & small paws & feet. Like her sister, she also wore a pair of white panties that was set between her legs & fastened at her waist. Yet she wore a different outfit—a fuchsia hair ribbon that was tied in a bow on top of her head, a matching dress with long sleeves, a white sash (tied in a bow at the back with the sashes sticking out), a matching collar (with some fuchsia inside), & cuffs, & a pair of white bloomers (with lace decorating the waist and ankles) that covered the bottom half of her stomach & went down to her ankles, which went well with the white socks & black Mary Jane shoes covering her feet. The other mouseling's name was Arden Flaversham, Olivia's adoptive big sister.
A small white bucktooth could be seen jutting out from each girl's upper lip, as they both deeply inhaled & exhaled the fresh, summery scent of the flowers & grass growing on the grounds of their family's farm. Olivia & Arden Flaversham smiled widely from ear to ear, as they looked around at the pastoral scenery of Scotland, savoring every single sight, sound, & smell that they took in...
It was a wonderful day today, & Olivia couldn't wait to take that first step outside onto the front lawn of the farmhouse! Neither could Arden! There were only a few minutes to spare before lunchtime, & there was so much she wanted to do before she & her sister sat down to eat...Oh, why did it seem to Olivia & Arden that there were never enough hours in the day? Summer was whizzing by in a blur, & before Olivia even knew it, she, her sister, & her friends from the nearby farmhouse would be starting school in Mouse Edinburgh! My, oh, my, how time does fly, thought Olivia, as she & Arden scampered out into the front yard, wondering what they would do in the last few moments of the late morning...
For all of July & August (& the last three days of June), Olivia, Arden, & their father Hiram had been lodging with their relatives (Grandpa Malcolm & Grandma Kayley) at their Highland home, right next door to the family that had been friends of the Flavershams for as long as Olivia could remember—a woman named Miss Leesha, her husband Gordon, & their four mouselings.  Whenever Olivia, Arden, & Hiram took vacations to the grandparents' farm, they would spend as much time with Leesha & her loved ones as they did with Grandpa Malcolm & Grandma Kayley. Unfortunately, since Hiram was so busy with his work at the toy shop, those father-&-daughter holidays didn't happen as often as they would have liked them to...but now that Hiram was taking time off from his job, he, Arden, & Olivia could stay & visit their relatives & friends in Scotland all day, every day!
Ever since the events that took place on June 19 & 21 of 1897 (& 2 months afterward), Olivia's life had largely returned back to normal...aside from the recent move to the Flaversham family farm, & the closing of her father's toy shop.  Hiram had told Olivia & her sister that the move from Mouse London probably wouldn't be permanent (unless she wanted it to be!), but it would be nice for them to take a break from their usual routines, & have a change of pace...not to mention a much-needed change of scenery, after all they had gone through in the last month. And, when you think about it, the Flavershams needed to "get away from it all" for a good period of time, in order to heal from the traumas associated with working for a wicked villain, being captured & held hostage by said villain, being forced to participate in an assassination plot, nearly getting killed, & having their lives threatened...more than once.
Perhaps, one day, Olivia, Arden, & their father would return to their old home in Mouse London...but, until then, Olivia was content to live her days out in Scotland, enjoying the time she spent with her grandparents & friends. Yet, no matter where she went or what she did, Olivia would never, ever forget the mouse who had saved her life (& that of her father's, as well)—Basil Of Baker Street, the Great Mouse Detective. I wonder what Basil's doing now, Olivia couldn't help but think to herself as she walked across the front yard. Is he still working with Dr. Dawson...?
Olivia's thoughts were suddenly interrupted when her ears perked up to the sound of whistling, followed by a dull thud. The mouseling's gaze darted over to a red apple that had just fallen from the big tree that stood a few mouse feet away from her. Mmmm, that apple sure looked delicious...Maybe, Olivia could have a little appetizer before lunch! With that in mind, Olivia walked over to the apple, then picked it up in her paws, & sunk her teeth into its shiny surface, savoring the taste of the fruit's juicy insides with every morsel she took into her mouth...
After finishing half of the apple, Olivia was thinking about whether she should put the partially-eaten food back down on the ground, in case a neighboring animal would like the leftovers...but before she could make a decision, her ears perked up again—this time, to the sound of footsteps—& Olivia turned her head around in the direction that the noise was coming from. One of the mouselings from next door had joined her by the tree! He was a sprightly, 12-year-old boy with tan fur (which was of a lighter shade on the areas of his muzzle & underbelly), blue eyes, & short red hair that covered his crown & scalp (with several small bangs hanging down over his forehead); he was dressed in a long-sleeved blue shirt, a pair of ankle-length trousers that were in a darker shade of blue, a forest-green vest (which he wore open), a dull pair of dark-gray shoes, & a forest-green English cap that was a bit too big for his head. The mouseling (whose name was Doug) stared curiously at Olivia & Adren, as he pointed to the half-eaten fruit she was holding in her hands. "Where did you get that apple, Livvy?" Doug asked his younger friends.
"Up in the tree," Olivia replied, as she looked up & pointed to the branches of the mighty plant, while Doug followed her gesture with an upward gaze of his eyes. "Livvy's right, Doug." answered Arden. Sure enough, the top of the tree was filled with hundreds of green leaves...& what must have been dozens of shiny red apples! Oh, they looked so delectable...so delicious...Doug simply had to get his paws on at least one of them! But there was just one problem..."I want to get an apple from the tree," Doug said as he lowered his head back down to look at Olivia & Arden, "but it's too high for me to reach."
It didn't take long for both Olivia & Arden to take notice of the layers of fungi that grew on the trunk of the apple tree. Dropping the half-eaten apple, Olivia leaped swiftly onto the tree trunk while Arden watched her, & began scaling the side of it, planting her paws & feet on the fungi rungs as though she were on a rock-climbing wall. "Who said you had to reach from the ground?" Olivia asked Arden & Doug coyly, as she started climbing up the tree, making her way up into the highest boughs. Not wanting to be left behind, Arden quickly followed after the plucky little mouseling, followed by Doug, ascending the side of the tree trunk with her until they all reached the top.
When Olivia, Arden, & Doug had gotten up into the higher part of the tree, they both sat down together on one of the bare branches. "So, where's the apples, Livvy?" Doug asked, looking at Olivia quizzically.
Almost immediately, Olivia pointed to the branch with the most number of apples, hanging just above their heads. "The only question now," Arden told her younger sister & Doug with a mischievous smile, "is, 'Who gets the most apples?'" With a playful glare, Olivia jumped up, & grabbed one of the apples from the branch into her paws, before landing down on the spot where she was earlier. Then, Olivia began digging into her apple heartily, as she leisurely dangled her legs & feet over the side of the branch.
Man, how on Earth did Livvy do that? Doug pondered to himself, amazed as to how she caught the apple with such deft dexterity. She can sure make a neat catch! Maybe, I could try something like that, too... Arden thought. Wanting to imitate Olivia, Arden & Doug attempted to repeat Olivia's move...but instead of landing on the branch when Doug caught the apple, he fell down, down, down, as Olivia & Arden watched him with a concerned gaze. Then, Olivia & Arden shut their eyes with a wince, as they heard Doug hit the ground with a thud...before opening their peepers again, & looking down at the place where Doug had fallen. Much to their relief, although the older mouseling was in an uncomfortable position (not to mention that he had a bruise on his head), he appeared to be fine. "I'm OK, girls!" he shouted to his pals, waving about the apple he now held in his paw.
Suddenly, Olivia, Arden, & Doug all froze when they heard a voice cry out worriedly, "Olivia, Arden, what are you doing in that tree? Get down immediately, dears, or you'll fall & break your necks!" Before long, the three mouselings were being joined by a fourth rodent—an adult female mouse in her early 30's. Covered in gray fur, she had dark-gray hair (tied into a bun), a slightly-prominent pink nose, & a pair of blue eyes that couldn't hide the anxiety she felt. She wore a scarlet dress with a white plaid pattern & matching lace trimmings, along with a navy-blue apron, a light-yellow ladies' hat (which had a scarlet ribbon-stripe with a daisy on it), a small pair of glasses (perched delicately upon her nose), & a pair of scarlet shoes with small heels.
The mouse woman looked down at Doug with a panicked expression on her face, before looking up in the direction of the tree branches when she heard Olivia call out in response, "Look at me, Miss Leesha! Arden & I are on top of the mouse world!"
Up in the boughs of the apple tree, Miss Leesha could see little Olivia & her big sister Arden smiling down at her, still holding the apple in one paw, as she gave a friendly wave at her with the other. Upon seeing that Olivia & Arden were indeed all right, Miss Leesha's earlier expression eased as she sighed in relief, before looking up at Olivia & Arden with a nervous smile, as she called out anxiously, "That's fine, dear...Now, why don't you & your sister come down from there? Lunch is almost ready!"
"OK, Miss Leesha!" Olivia replied, before she & Arden looked at a big rope that had been tied to the branch in front of them. A few years ago, during a visit to the farm, Olivia had helped Hiram, Arden, Miss Leesha, Mr. Gordon, Grandma Kayley, & Grandpa Malcolm fasten the rope to the tree, so Olivia, Arden, & their friends could have a swing to play on during sunny days like this one. And, now, it was time to put that rope-swing to good use! Sporting a pair of broad, adventurous smiles on their faces, Olivia & Arden grabbed tightly onto the rope, & swung down towards the ground, letting out a merry cry of "Wheeeeee!" Then, when they made their way to the bottom of the tree trunk, Olivia & Arden let go of the rope, & jumped onto the grass, which crunched a little under the soles of their shoes as they landed. Olivia & Arden then took a moment to smile & pose sweetly at Miss Leesha, who went over to pick the mouselings up into her arms.
Hugging her little friends tightly, Miss Leesha exclaimed joyfully, "Oh, Olivia, Arden, thank heavens you're all right!" Then, when she had set Olivia & Arden back down onto the ground, the mother mouse added in a troubled tone-of-voice, "Goodness Gouda, children, what on Earth were you thinking? Don't you know you could have hurt yourselves?"
Just then, a fifth mouse arrived onto the scene, joining Olivia, Arden, Doug, & Miss Leesha. Like the former two, he had tan fur, but no markings covered his muzzle or underbelly. The back & sides of his head were adorned with bushy red hair & sideburns, while a thick red moustache spanned across the length of his face. A large, slightly-prominent brown nose jutted out from between a pair of kindly chocolate-brown eyes, topped with red eyebrows that were as thick & bushy as the rest of his facial hair. He was of a slender, well-built figure, with rough carpenter's paws, thin wrists, & knees that were continually bent from stooping over so much when he worked. He was dressed in a fancy blue jacket with matching trousers, a crisp white shirt, a pinstriped red cravat, a shiny pair of black shoes, & a blue bowler hat with a red ribbon-stripe, along with an oversized pair of glasses that were perched upon his nose. The mouse—none other than Olivia & Arden's father, Hiram Flaversham—gave an assuring smile at his parents' neighbor, as he placed a paw on her shoulder, & said, "Leesha, don't worry. Olivia & Arden are very careful mouselings."
"Well, what about the time Olivia nearly drowned in the swimming hole?" Aunt Leesha retorted, turning to face Hiram with a glare.
"That was my fault, Ma, remember?" Doug said as he pushed himself up off the ground & rose to his feet, before sweeping the dust off his clothes as he continued, "Arden & I pulled down Livvy's ankle when we were playing 'shark hunt', & I accidentally brought her under the water." "And it's a wonder you didn't kill the girls!" Miss Leesha said scoldingly, glaring at Doug with her arms akimbo. Then, when she had said that, another incident came to mind: "Oh, & don't forget the time when Olivia nearly slipped on a rock in the stream near the woods! Had the poor thing fallen, she could have cracked her head open!"
Hiram listened to Miss Leesha's ramblings with polite attentiveness, knowing how deeply she cared about Olivia, Arden, & her own children...but at the same time, the toymaker couldn't help but think that his parents' next-door neighbor worried a little too much about his daughters' safety. Of course, Hiram was very protective of his little mouselings, as any good parent would be, & he would do anything to keep her safe from harm...yet he didn't want to be overprotective, & not allow Olivia the chance to be a kid—to fully enjoy the freedoms that came with youth, without having her father looking over her shoulder every second! No matter how many times Olivia had gotten into trouble of some sort, she had always made it out OK, & her doting daddy could thank his lucky stars for that. To Hiram, it was perfectly all right for his daughter to climb trees, explore uncharted territory, ride the back of a flying bird, or go on an exciting adventure, just as long as his wee bairn was careful, & did her best to keep her wits about her. And, so far, Olivia had never failed to do that! But, hoping to ease Miss Leesha's fears, Hiram made sure to assure her about the additional asset that aided his little angel in getting out of dire straits: "Well, Leesha, just be thankful that Olivia has my lightning-quick reflexes."
Miss Leesha, Hiram, & Doug all watched, as Olivia demonstrated a display of martial-arts moves for her father & friends—roundhouse kicks, paw-chops, foot-jabs, & the like. For someone who had never taken karate lessons, the mouseling appeared to be very good at it! Hiram couldn't help but witness his daughter's performance with a loving smile & an impressed gaze, while Doug watched with a wide-eyed look of wonderment, his jaw literally hanging open in astonishment. Miss Leesha, however, just rolled her eyes, & turned to walk away from Hiram, as she said in a semi-sardonic tone, "Yes, my dear pal certainly was fortunate enough to inherit your traits, Hiram..." Then, she called out to her oldest son, "Dougie, come on! Lunch is on the table!"
Doug immediately scampered after his mother, following her into their farmhouse. He couldn't wait to eat the food that Miss Leesha had prepared for him, his dad, & his siblings, along with the Flavershams (who they had invited over for the midday meal)! And neither could Hiram; he could already feel his stomach rumbling, as he walked off in the same direction, only turning back for a moment to cup his paw over his mouth, as he called out to his daughter, "Olivia, dear, it's time to eat!"
"Coming, Daddy!" Olivia replied, abruptly finishing her impromptu karate exercises, & dashing over to join her father at his side. After taking Hiram by the paw, Olivia followed him into Miss Leesha's farmhouse. As soon as she stepped inside the humbly-decorated dining room, the mouseling's mouth instantly began watering when her nose picked up on the heavenly aromas of herbal tea with cheese crumpets, cheese soufflé, cheese tarts, cheese soup, mashed cheese potatoes, cheddar cheese-cake, & other delightful dairy-based dishes! As soon as she & her father sat down at the large wooden table, Olivia tied a napkin around her neck, & grabbed her silverware, ready for her first serving of scrumptious food!
The same could be said for Leesha's husband, Mr. Gordon, who sat right between Olivia & the empty chair that his wife would soon be sitting in. Mr. Gordon was short for a mouse his age, & his body (covered in auburn fur) boasted a plump, portly figure. Short, straight dark-red hair covered the top of his head, with a thick, bushy dark-red moustache spanning across the entire length of his face. His small pink nose jutted out from between a pair of jolly green eyes, topped with curved dark-red eyebrows that were as thick & bushy as his moustache. A big white bucktooth jutted out from his upper lip, & average-sized ears flanked either side of his head. His arms & legs were of stout build, with large paws & feet attached to the end of each limb. He was dressed in a sea-green jacket with matching trousers that both fit his figure very well, & underneath the first article of clothing, a light-sea-green waistcoat & a set of spring-green shirt-sleeves adorned his upper half. A light-sea-green bow-tie (which matched the waistcoat) fastened the folded-down flaps of his shirt collar together, while a pair of shiny dark-gray shoes completely covered his feet. And, just like Olivia & Arden, a napkin was tied around the nape of his neck, & pieces of silverware were held in his hands. He, too, couldn't wait to help himself to the luscious lunch that awaited him & his loved ones!
"You're going to love what Leesha's cooked for us today," Mr. Gordon told Olivia & Hiram, who was sitting in the chair on his daughter's "right" side. "She's fixed an entire feast for everyone!"
"I noticed," Hiram replied with a smile & a nod of his head, before donning his dinner napkin, & taking up his silverware. Looking around the room, he noticed that Grandma Kayley & Grandpa Malcolm (sitting in chairs at both ends of the table) had done the same thing, along with Miss Leesha & Mr. Gordon's four mouselings—Doug, Fran, Russell, & Wendy—who were sitting opposite from Olivia, her dad, & their own father.
Grandma Kayley & Grandpa Malcolm (both aged in their mid-to-late 60's) were of lean, slender build, with tan fur covering their bodies, wrinkles & signs of aging adorning their faces, & straight hair that was once a fiery shade of red, but had turned silver with their passage into the golden years. Being a much taller mouse than Malcolm, Grandma Kayley constantly towered over her husband, & whenever one saw the two together, it was easy to see which parent had passed on the genes of short stature to Hiram. Like Miss Leesha, Grandma Kayley's hair was tied into a neat bun, & her kindly blue eyes hid behind a pair of small spectacles (perched upon the bridge of her small pink nose); her limbs were slim, & the adjoining appendages, delicate. Her clothes were colored in different shades of the same hue; her long-sleeved, ankle-length lavender dress was decorated with light-lavender lace trimmings, & its tall light-lavender collar (adorned with an elliptical emerald cameo) sported the same embellishments as the sleeve-cuffs & hem, while a row of three dark-lavender buttons went down along the front of the dress' top-piece. A pair of lavender shoes with small heels fit snugly upon her feet, & the lavender bead bracelet on her "right" wrist went perfectly well with her matching, orb-shaped earrings; an emerald ring (complementing the cameo on her dress-collar) was worn on her "right" hand, while a golden wedding band was worn on the other paw. In contrast, Grandpa Malcolm looked a lot more like his son Hiram, with a similar height, hairstyle, moustache, & set of sideburns...but he also had a thick silver beard that went with the rest of his facial hair. He wore a buttonless light-golden shirt, with a big purple bow-tie fastening the upturned wings of its starched collar; a snug-fitting pair of golden trousers (held up by a dark-brown leather belt with a golden buckle) covered his lower half, & large dark-brown shoes sheltered his feet. Unlike his wife & son, however, he did not wear any glasses. The 4 mouselings of Miss Leesha & Mr. Gordon all sat together on their side of the table, with 12-year-old Doug sitting on the northern end (closest to Grandpa Malcolm), followed by 11-year-old Fran, 8-year-old Russell, & 4-year-old Wendy (who sat on the southern end, closest to Grandma Kayley). The two girls both shared their mother's hair & fur color, but their eyes were the same shade of green as their father's; in contrast, Russell had the same hair & fur color as Mr. Gordon, but he'd inherited his mother Leesha's blue eyes (not to mention he stood apart from his siblings with his stocky, athletic figure). Out of all four children, Doug looked the most different, with his tan fur, light body markings, & short red hair; the only noticeable thing he seemed to have in common with any of his relatives was his blue eyes.  The mouselings were all dressed in different sets of clothes, each as unique as their appearance & fursonality. Wendy wore a short-sleeved mint-turquoise dress that went all the way down to her ankles, with a small teal hair-bow tucked behind her right ear; she usually didn't wear any shoes—nor did she care to—but she could usually be seen with her favorite ragdoll (in fact, Wendy had "invited" her friend over to lunch, & the doll was seated in the toddler's lap right now). Russell wore a white T-shirt with a sky-blue stripe around the midsection, a pair of long blue trousers (reaching down to his ankles), & dull dark-gray shoes that were scuffed in several places—no doubt, as a result of the rough horseplay that Russell would sometimes get into in the middle of one of his favorite games or sports. Fran dressed in the "proper attire" of a growing Mousetorian girl, wearing a lavender turtleneck sweater, a deep-green skirt (reaching down to her knees), white socks, & black shoes that she always kept clean & shiny; a lavender ladies' hat (decorated with a deep-green ribbon-stripe & a yellow flower with an orange center) was worn on top of her shoulder-length hair, which had been neatly combed with her favorite fur-brush. And Doug was still wearing his forest-green & blue ensemble, which was a little wrinkled & disheveled after his earlier fall from the apple tree. It seemed that Fran was the only mouseling who was even making an attempt to wait patiently for her food, for Doug, Russell, & Wendy's excited expressions betrayed their hidden feelings of gnawing hunger. "Oh, boy, I can't wait for lunch!" Russell exclaimed eagerly, "gently" padding his silverware-laden fists against the surface of the table (not aware that the empty plates & bowls were shaking & shimmying from the force of his movements). "When do we eat? When do we eat? When do we eat?" "If you could just chill down for a few seconds," Fran calmly chastised Russell with a reprimanding glower, "Mom will be bringing the food out! You really need to learn how to be more patient, Russell...Patience is a virtue & a value that all Mousetorian mouselings should learn & take to heart." "If you're gonna blab about 'Mousetorian virtues' again," Russell complained, "why not save your speech for when I'm actually in the mood to hear it?" "And while we're on the subject," Fran suggested (with some irritation in her voice), "I think we should also take the time to discuss the importance of being polite!" "That's a good idea," Russell retorted. "You can start as soon as we're done eating..." "Lunch!" Wendy cheered, smiling broadly from ear to ear. She was practically bouncing up & down in her seat, unable to contain her inner elation...that is, until a stern look from Fran forced the toddler to end her ecstatic display, & sit back down in her booster chair. The merry expression did not leave Wendy's face, however, as she saw her mother come in with all the delicious food she'd been preparing for the last couple of hours—from the cheese soup, to the cheese soufflé, & everything in between. And, of course, there were plenty of herbal tea & cheese crumpets for everyone! Once she had finished serving everyone their midday meal, Miss Leesha sat down to eat at the table beside her husband Gordon, & as the feasting continued, the Flavershams & their friends partook in all sorts of engaging & entertaining conversations with one another. At one point, after taking a bite of his cheddar cheese-cake, Mr. Gordon turned to face Olivia, who had been delicately taking spoonfuls of her cheese soup into her mouth. "So, Olivia, your father tells me that you swung down on a rope...all the way from the branches of a tree!" Mr. Gordon said, looking down & smiling at Olivia as he made a reference to one of their recent table-talks. Olivia briefly looked up from her bowl of cheese soup to face Mr. Gordon with a return of his smile, nodding her head to confirm Hiram's earlier claims, before going back to eating her food. "I think we have a little Furzan in our family," Mr. Gordon said playfully, as he reached out a paw to tousle Olivia's fur-hair. "Next thing you know, she'll be talking to jungle animals!" Miss Leesha was not too pleased at the prospect of that! "Jungle animals?" she echoed, her tone-of-voice & expression taking on their usual air of anxiety. "Oh, dear me..." She looked about ready to faint (& would have indulged the urge to do so, were she not at the table). "Don't worry, Mom," Fran assured Miss Leesha with an optimistic smile. "If a big leopard tries to chase Olivia, she can poke it with a spear!"
"Yea!" Wendy cheered, launching into her excited mode once again. The little mouse girl grabbed her fork off of her placemat, & waved her arms about wildly in the air as she added, "Livvy poke mean 'leper' with junga spear!" By this point, Wendy could no longer contain her restlessness. She began stabbing her fork against the table with mighty blows, accidentally making all the glasses, dishes, & silverware jump up & down every time her fist hit the wooden surface. As she was doing all this, Wendy made a series of nonsensical noises: "Pshoo! Pow! Pshoo! Bam-bam! Pokey!" With that final cry, Wendy gave the table her hardest hit ever, & the impact caused her plate of mashed cheese potatoes to fly off her placemat, into the air, over the table...& right into Miss Leesha's face!
Just a second or two after the mashed cheese potatoes came into contact with Miss Leesha, the plate fell onto the table with a loud clatter, & the others got a good glance at the golden-colored goop that was now covering the mouse mother's head.
Glaring in irritation, Miss Leesha took out a hankie, & tried her best to clean off the sticky mess from the food (though she had a feeling she would probably need to give her face & hair a good wash after lunch was over...if not several soaks in the sink!). As they were watching this, Mr. Gordon, Olivia, & Hiram tried as hard as they could not to laugh...but their attempts ultimately proved to be fruitless. Soon, the three mice were giggling their tails off—much to Miss Leesha's displeasure, which soon became apparent to the others as she wiped off the last of the cheese potatoes, & disposed of the newly-soiled hankie. "Oh, you're all just impossible!" Miss Leesha exclaimed irritatedly when she saw her husband & three friends laughing.
The chortles & chuckles being emitted by Mr. Gordon, Olivia, Arden, & Hiram eventually subsided, & as he tried to calm himself down from his earlier state of merriment, the former wiped a tear from his eye with his forefinger, & said with a sheepish smile, "Sorry, Leesha...I'm afraid we couldn't help it."
When Miss Leesha turned her head away from Mr. Gordon to glare across the table at Wendy, the only response she got was an innocent stare from her youngest daughter, as her other three children tried to hold back their own laughter. "Wendy make cheese taters go sploosh?" the tiny toddler inquired, still sporting that ingenuous smile on her face. By this point, the rest of the mouselings could no longer contain themselves. Doug, Fran, & Russell burst into hysterical giggles, &, before she even knew it, Wendy was joining her siblings in their jollity. (Russell could barely control his laughter enough to tell his little sister in reply, "Yep, Wendy, you sure did!") When Mr. Gordon, Hiram, & Olivia got caught up in the contagious mood of mirth—along with Grandpa Malcolm & Grandma Kayley!—Miss Leesha couldn't find it in herself to stay mad anymore. Soon, she, too, was joining her family & friends in the laughter that rang throughout the dining room of the farmhouse. The giggling continued for several moments, &, for a while, Olivia thought it would go on into the afternoon...but, in the end, the mice were all able to compose themselves, before finally returning to their lunch. ________________________________________ Not too long afterwards, Olivia & the other five mouselings had all finished their midday meal, & they were now spending the afternoon in the upstairs nursery / playroom. Olivia was sitting on the floor, playing with a variety of brilliantly-colored Rainbow Toys, while Wendy played with a set of Rainbow Blocks, a Rainbow Xylophone, a multicolored toy train, & (of course) her favorite rag-dolly. Russell was bouncing a Rainbow Beach Ball up & down like a basketball dribbler, while Fran contented herself to playing games with her set of jacks. Doug was seated at a desk in the corner of the playroom, coloring different pictures on pieces of paper with wax crayons. The children were having oodles of fun as they played together, & their peaceful, pleasant activities progressed through the afternoon without any interruptions...for the most part.
At one point, while dribbling his Rainbow Beach Ball, Russell gave the toy a particularly-hard push...&, as the athletic lad often tended to do, he overestimated his own strength. The Rainbow Beach Ball bounced off the floor at an angle, flew up towards Fran, & accidentally hit her on the head, causing her to drop the jacks in her paws as she let out a startled cry. Within seconds, the Rainbow Beach Ball fell back down onto the floor, & after Fran had regained her bearings (& subsequently realized what happened), she turned to glare at Russell, who smiled sheepishly at his sister as he posed coyly, & apologized, "Oops...Sorry, Fran." Wendy couldn't help but giggle & point at an irritated Fran (still holding one of her Rainbow Blocks in the hand she was gesturing with), as she remarked, "Russa make ball bonk Fran on the head!" Fran glared indignantly at Wendy for a few seconds, then went back to her jacks game, trying to start all over again; at the same time, Wendy went back to playing with her own toys. Meanwhile, Olivia was still busily playing with her Rainbow Toys. The little Scotsmouse juggled a Rainbow Slinky back & forth in her paws, watching the iridescent colors rush in front of her eyes in a beautiful blur, as she hummed the bars of her favorite tune—the same song played by the music box built into the dancing doll that she had received for her 5th birthday only 2 months ago...  As an ocean of past memories began to sweep through her mind, Olivia wondered how much everyone in Mouse London longed to be back in the company of her & her father. No doubt, all their neighbors & chums from the city were missing them terribly, & Olivia was sure her teacher & classmates at kindergarten in Basil Of Baker Street Grammar School felt the same way (even if she didn't have too many friends there).  And, now that Olivia thought about it, Basil & Dr. Dawson were probably missing the Flavershams, too...
Before Olivia could muse about how lonely her two pals might have been feeling without her & her daddy coming to visit them, she suddenly looked up from the Rainbow Slinky she was still absentmindedly playing with, & noticed Doug doodling pictures at his little "work-station" in the corner. Curious as to what her older friend was doing, Olivia put down the Rainbow Slinky, then got up onto her feet, & went over to approach Doug; she soon saw that he was coloring in a picture of an apple. Once Doug was done with that picture, he turned it over, revealing the blank piece of paper that was hidden underneath; on this sheet, he began to color a picture of a smiling honeybee. After finishing his work on that image, he flipped over to a new page, where he colored in a picture of a big birthday cake, topped with candles & frosting.
"What are you doing, Doug?" Olivia asked as she stood up on her tiptoes, gazing curiously at the picture of the cake when Doug had finished it.
"Coloring in pictures," Doug replied, still concentrating on his work (& not turning to face Olivia). As he turned over the completed image of the cake, before working on a new picture of a daisy flower, he added, "I'm making an alphabet book for Wendy."
"I already told you, Doug," Fran commented, "Wendy's not old enough to read yet! She has to finish preschool first!"
Upon hearing this, Doug paused his work on the daisy drawing, then turned to face Fran with an irritated, indignant glare. "Well, when she goes to kindergarten, Frannie," he retorted, "Wendy's gonna thank her big brother for being nice enough to make this lovingly-crafted, beautifully-illustrated book for her!"
With that, Doug turned back around to finish his latest picture, but before he could turn it over when he was done, he heard Fran pipe up, "The books the teachers keep at school are better, Doug!"
"Are not!" Doug challenged.
"Are too!" Fran countered.
"Are too, times a hundred!"
"Are not, times a million!"
"Are too, times infinity!"
"Are not, times infinity plus..."—Doug strained for the words—"...a gazillion...jillion...bamillion!"
Once again, Wendy couldn't help but let out a giggle of gleeful amusement. "Doug say REAL big numba!" she marveled, astonished by her brother's ability to top Fran's "infinity". Doug simply smiled at Wendy in a smug manner, before going back to his work & flipping over the finished picture of the daisy, as he replied, "Why, thank you, Wendy. I'm glad someone is appreciative of my efforts to improve your education!" (When she heard Doug say this, Fran gave out an impatient sigh, but did not choose to comment.) With that, Olivia went back over to her earlier spot on the floor, where she continued to play with her Rainbow Toys, while Doug worked on coloring a picture of a big-eared elephant. At one point, Doug's labor was suddenly interrupted when he became distracted by the sound of Wendy playing a rough version of "God Save The Queen" on her Rainbow Xylophone, followed by Fran's advice to her little sister: "Wendy, dear, you're not on key. That should be an F-sharp...No, wait, I think that's an F-flat." Doug couldn't help but roll his eyes in annoyance, as he went back to his coloring. You know another thing good Mousetorian mouselings should learn, Fran? he thought. How to describe musical notes properly! ________________________________________ Later that afternoon, Olivia, Arden, Doug, Fran, Russell, & Wendy were finished playing in the nursery, &, now, the 6 mouselings were out in the front yard, playing a game of "Hide-&-Seek". Having decided to start the first round—as he usually did whenever he played a game—Russell leaned against the trunk of the big apple tree, covering his eyes as he counted down from 15 to zero, while his friends & siblings went to hide. As soon as Russell started on "15", Olivia scampered off to hide in a bush, while Fran hid in the hollow of a small log, Doug hid behind a cluster of large heather plants, & Wendy hid under a big leaf. All 4 mouselings made sure they were hidden well enough, before Russell finally uncovered his eyes, & shouted, "Zero! Ready or not, here I come!"
With that, Russell began to run all about the front yard, looking around for Olivia & the others...but to no avail. He checked under every rock, in every patch of grass, & everywhere else he expected to make good hiding places, but he couldn't see any of them! Darn! Russell pouted inwardly. Where the heck could everybody be? Just as Russell was about to give up, he looked down at the ground...& spotted a pair of stuffed legs poking out from underneath a large leaf. Well, what do you know? Just my luck! Russell thought, sporting a smug smile as he lifted the leaf up to reveal...none other than Wendy & her ragdoll!
Wendy wasn't too pleased that Russell had managed to find her. "No fair!" the tot complained with an annoyed glower, huffily crossing her arms over her chest. "Wendy wanted to win!"
"You did win, Wendy," Russell corrected his sister. "I found you first, so that means you get to find everybody else now."
As soon as she heard this, Wendy's pouty countenance switched to a broad smile; already, she was taking great delight in her new role in the game! Still clutching her rag-dolly, Wendy scampered off, eagerly engaging in her search for Olivia & her older siblings. The little lass was so caught up in the enthralling enthusiasm of her quest, that she didn't take notice of Russell chasing after her, as he shouted, "Wait! You didn't count & wait for me to hide yet!" Not too far away, Olivia was still hidden inside the bush she had chosen to conceal herself in; the small Scotsmouse parted the leaves of said bush, before peeking out through the foliage with a mischievous, sly smile on her face. Russell will never find me here! she thought to herself smugly. But before Olivia could duck back into her shelter, she was soon surprised to see Wendy toddling up to her. Poking Olivia in the nose with her forefinger, the scrawny child launched into a triumphant victory dance, her doll & dark-gray ponytail jostling about in the air, as she chimed proudly, "I found you, Livvy! I found you!" With a "defeated" look, Olivia crawled out of her hiding place, revealing herself to Wendy & Russell (who had just joined the former at her side). Fran soon came onto the scene, as well, sweeping the moss off of her clothes as she said with a sheepish smile, "I didn't want to stay in that log. Too much moss & slime in there...ick." After the arrival of her oldest sister, Wendy went off to look for Doug, as the others followed her...but by the time their search came to an end near the cluster of heather plants, he was nowhere to be found! "Where Doug?" Wendy asked in puzzlement, as she turned her head to face Russell & Fran, who were both looking around for any sign of their eldest sibling. Olivia quickly saw where the heather had been disturbed, & she knew this was where Doug had made his earlier entrance. Pointing to the parted heather, Olivia told her friends, "He probably went to hide in those flowers." With that, Olivia dashed into the forest of purple plants—which was more of a jungle, really—& began searching all around the wild foliage, hoping to find Doug...or, at least, any clues that could tell her where he had gone; Russell & Fran (carrying Wendy & her doll in her arms) followed their comrade close behind. "Where could Doug be?" Fran asked worriedly, looking around in vain for her older brother. "I thought you said he was right here, Livvy." Olivia took a moment to pause & ponder to herself, trying to think of a way to figure out where Doug had gone, before she finally looked down...& saw repeating pairs of shoe-sole patterns padded into the grass, leading into another part of the thicket. "Follow me!" Olivia told Fran, Russell, & Wendy. "I think if we follow these footprints, they'll lead us straight to him!" And, so, the mouselings all went along the trail of shoe imprints, continuing their search for Doug as they wandered through the forest of heather plants. They looked & looked for the next several minutes, until their investigation ultimately led them into an open clearing on the heather moors near their home. As soon as they emerged from the flowery thicket, & stepped out into the meadow, Olivia, Russell, Fran, & Wendy could see a small tree, planted not too far away from where they were standing...&, to their great surprise, they found Doug hiding in the branches! The children's looks of relief soon became wide-eyed, worried expressions, however, when they saw Doug struggling to free himself from a group of vines that were hanging from the tree (Olivia guessed that Doug was using said vines to climb up into the boughs, but had accidentally gotten himself tangled in the rope-like cords). Grunting & groaning with effort, Doug tried desperately—but vainly—to wiggle out of his restraints, & Olivia, Russell, & Fran (still carrying Wendy & her doll) immediately went over to approach the tree in which he was so terribly trapped. "Doug, what happened?" Fran asked in alarm, as she & the others looked up at the entangled mouseling. "Help me, you guys!" Doug shouted with a groan, as he continued to try & get himself loose from the vines (but to no avail). "I'm...stuck!" Upon seeing how dire their brother's predicament was, Fran, Russell, & Wendy all looked down at each other with anxious gazes, not sure how they could help Doug. "What'll we do?" Russell questioned his sisters. "We gotta get Doug out of those vines!" "But Dougie too high up in the tree," Wendy replied matter-of-factly. "We can't reach him." At this point, Wendy & her older siblings were beginning to feel discouraged, but Olivia wasn't going to allow herself to feel the same way. She just knew there had to be a way to help her friend...&, after thinking for a few moments, she soon came up with an ingenious idea! "We can't reach Doug," Olivia told the other mouselings, "but we can still get him down!" "How?" asked Fran, wondering how they would be able to accomplish that. "Trust me, Fran," Olivia said with a crafty smile & a coy twinkle in her eyes. "I have a plan..." And, oh, what a plan Olivia had! But, first, a few preliminary preparations had to be made, before the Scotsmouse could fully disclose the details of her plot to her friends. She wandered around the heather moors, gathering anything that would be of use to them—some pebbles, a small wooden plank, a fresh walnut, & a piece of flint rock. After bringing the makeshift tools over, Olivia enlisted the help of Fran in carefully prying the walnut open, & once the two girls had given Wendy the edible parts of the nut to nibble on, they proceeded to carve out the hollow of one half with a small knife. After that, Russell helped Olivia & Fran whet the piece of flint until it had sharpened to a point. When that was done, Olivia took a stick off of the ground, & used it to draw a diagram in a nearby patch of dirt; the paw-made picture demonstrated how Olivia & her pals would use their collected items in the effort to free Doug from the vines. First, Olivia explained, the mouselings would make a seesaw with the wooden plank (which would serve as the plane) & the largest of the three pebbles (which would serve as the fulcrum). On one end of the plane, one of the smaller pebbles would be placed on the plank surface, & in order to make it launch into the air, Wendy needed to drop the third pebble on the other end of the seesaw. Said seesaw would have to be positioned at a certain spot on the heather moors, so that when the second pebble was launched, it would fly up, & hit one of the tree branches, before falling into the half of the walnut shell that would serve as a makeshift bucket. The walnut-half would be suspended from the branch by one of the vines, which would be tied around the shell at one end; the vine's opposite end (hanging on the other side of the bough) would be tied around the wider half of the sharpened flint rock. After the launching pebble fell into the walnut-bucket, it would cause the container to descend from the tree branch, as a result of the additional weight. While the walnut-bucket went down towards the ground, it would tug on the vine-pulley, causing the flint rock attached to the other end to ascend higher & higher...& when the walnut-bucket got low enough, the piece of flint would slide over the branch, & fall against the tangled vines—thus cutting Doug free! With that process in mind, Olivia, Russell, Fran, & Wendy all worked together to make the necessary arrangements, & in no time at all, they had successfully set up their elaborate "Rube Goldberg" device; now, they were ready to put their plan into action! As her dolly lay on the ground by her side, Wendy stood at the back end of the seesaw, ready to drop the pebble that would send the other one flying. Up in the tree, Olivia was kneeling on top of the branch that the homemade pulley was suspended from. After securing the vine that made up part of the device, & making sure that the front end was tied snugly enough around the walnut-bucket, Olivia looked down towards Wendy, &, with a paw cupped to her mouth, she shouted, "Are you ready, Wendy?" Still holding the pebble in her arms, Wendy nodded, & replied with her usual smile, "Ready, Livvy!" With that, Olivia began counting: "One...two...three...FOUR!" When she heard Olivia give the signal, Wendy dropped the pebble onto her end of the seesaw, launching the pebble on the opposite side, & setting off the rest of the device. And, just as Olivia had predicted, the flint rock went over the branch, & fell down onto the tangle of vines, cutting through them on impact. When the cables that had once imprisoned him finally broke apart, Doug let out a yelp of startlement, as he felt himself falling towards the ground...& into Fran's arms. "Gotcha!" Fran cried out when Doug made a safe landing. She had caught him just in time! After his sister had set him down onto his feet, Doug looked at Fran with a wide smile; though a little shaken, he was glad to be OK & in one piece. "Thanks, you guys!" Doug told the other mouselings, unable to contain his gratitude to them for helping him out of his earlier pickle. "You should be thanking Olivia," Fran said, gesturing to the younger mouse as she planted a paw on her shoulder (truth be told, Olivia couldn't hide the proud smile on her face when she heard Fran's comment!). "It was her idea to come up with that wacky device." "Say, where did you get the idea for that device anyway, Livvy?" asked Russell, now curious to learn more about the source of her inspiration. "Yeah!" Wendy exclaimed excitedly, staring up at Olivia with bright, shining eyes. "How you make it?" "Well, I knew someone who made a big device just like that one," Olivia answered, "back in London!" I guess you could say I knew him...though we weren't really friends, or anything. Far from it, actually... "What was his name, Olivia?" asked Russell. The Glaswegian girl winced when she heard the question; she had hoped that no one would bring up the dreaded topic of the furson who'd truly inspired her to make the Goldbergian device in the first place...the very villain who had not only tried to bring harm to her & her father, but also to her friends Basil & Dr. Dawson, & even the Queen herself! "I'd...rather not discuss it right now," Olivia replied hesitantly, still wincing a little. Besides, she thought, it's best that you don't know his name, anyway. "Well, Livvy, at least tell us who taught you how to look for Doug!" Fran begged. "How did you know where his footprints would lead to?" "And how did you know he went to hide in the heather?" Russell inquired. Now, the memories filling Olivia's head were of a pleasant variety, & she was eager to satisfy her friends' curiosity by answering their questions. "I just did what any detective would do—look for clues, & follow their trail," Olivia responded. Doug, Fran, Russell, & Wendy all "oohed", "aahed", & muttered in fascination, & Olivia couldn't help but smile & beam proudly, as she continued, "I learned everything about investigating from my friend Basil!" The other four mouselings gasped in shock & surprise, amazed at what they were hearing. "You mean Basil Of Baker Street?" Russell ejaculated in astonishment. "No way!" "I can't believe you actually know the Great Mouse Detective!" Fran exclaimed, unable to hide her awe. "When'd you meet him, Livvy?" Doug asked, bubbling over with excitement incited by interest & inquisitiveness. "What happened when you first met?" "What does he look like?" Fran wondered with a dreamy look in her emerald eyes. "Is he cute?" "It's a long story, you guys," Olivia replied. "But Daddy & I can tell you about it after dinner." And speaking of the proverbial Devil, Olivia & her pals could hear their parents calling out their names; no doubt, Hiram, Miss Leesha, & Mr. Gordon were looking for their wee ones out on the front lawn, & Olivia didn't want to keep them waiting & worrying for a second longer! "Come on, everyone, let's go!" Olivia directed Doug & his siblings, beckoning for them to follow her as she ran towards the forest of heather flowers. "Our parents are looking for us!" As soon as Wendy had picked up her doll, & Fran had gathered her into her arms, the 5 mouselings rushed off in the direction of the front yard, leaving the clearing on the heather moors empty & quiet once again. ________________________________________ Night had fallen over the Scottish Highlands, & the area around the Flaversham family farmhouse (& the neighboring building) was bathed in the silver glow of pale moonlight. The warm dusk air was filled with the melodies of chirping crickets, hooting owls, & other creatures of the evening, while fireflies danced above the pastures & plains. Inside the living room of the Flavershams' pastoral home, Olivia, Hiram, Miss Leesha, Mr. Gordon, Doug, Fran, Russell, Wendy, Grandpa Malcolm, & Grandma Kayley were all sitting down together on the couch & chairs, having just finished their supper; the mice all chatted & conversed over various topics, as they indulged in the warm glow of the cozy fire blazing in the hearth. "So, Olivia," Grandpa Malcolm said at one point, "I believe you & your daddy have a big story to tell us." "Mr. Malcy, Livvy & Mr. Hiram meet Basil Baker Street!" Wendy exclaimed elatedly. "That's right, Wendy," Hiram affirmed, before beginning his tale: "You see, last month, just before we moved here, Queen Mousetoria was celebrating her Diamond Jubilee. The night before, however, was Olivia's birthday, as you all know...So, after I closed up shop for the night, Olivia & I had a small celebration, & opened her presents." How ironic that Hiram should mention birthday presents at this point, for Olivia (who sat beside her father on the sofa) was holding the very same dancing doll she had been given a month ago...Before Hiram was taken off to Buckingham Palace, he had tucked the toy (which his captor had crushed in his fist during an earlier "conversation" with him) into his pocket, where he kept it safe throughout the moments leading up to his reunion with Olivia; shortly after their move to Mouse Scotland, he'd repaired the broken doll, & surprised his daughter with it the following morning. Olivia was so happy to see her father's birthday gift all fixed up for her...but not nearly as happy as she was to have her darling daddy safe & sound! Unaware of the thoughts racing through Olivia's head, Hiram continued with his tale: "Just after I gave her my gift, though, there was a strange rattling at the door. I was worried about who might be trying to get in, so I hid Olivia in the cupboard, & shut the door. All of a sudden, this great big bat appeared in the window, & broke into the toy shop! I tried to fight off the attacker, but he managed to overpower me; then, he tied me up, & carried me out of the toy shop. The bat took me to the hideout of this evil genius, Professor Ratigan. He forced me to make this mechanical robot of Queen Mousetoria, so he could use it to dethrone her on her Diamond Jubilee, & become king of all mousedom! I told him that I wouldn't help him do such a horrible thing, but he threatened me that if I didn't do what he said, he would kill Olivia! So I had no choice but to give into Ratigan's demands... "Well, in the meantime, Olivia wandered all around Mouse London, looking for me. This surgeon, Dr. Dawson, had just arrived from Afghanistan, & was looking for a place to spend the night, when he came upon Olivia. He asked her what was wrong, & she told him that she was looking for the Great Mouse Detective, Basil Of Baker Street. Dr. Dawson decided to take Olivia to Baker Street, & before long, they found Basil. Basil agreed to help Olivia & Dawson find me. The next morning, however, when the three were investigating at a human's toy store, Fidget sneaked in, & kidnapped Olivia! He took her to the hideout, where Professor Ratigan imprisoned her in a bottle outside. He told me that unless I finished the robot tonight, he would bring terrible harm upon my daughter. I had to keep working on that foul invention...for Olivia's sake. "When I had finally finished the robot, Ratigan whisked me away to Buckingham Palace, where Queen Mousetoria was getting ready for her Diamond Jubilee. Suddenly, she was ambushed by Ratigan's thugs, who were dressed as royal guards! Ratigan stormed into the room, & ordered that Fidget take her outside, so he could sacrifice her to his big pet cat, Felicia. Luckily, Olivia, Dr. Dawson, & Basil were able to save the Queen & bring her back into the palace. Just as Ratigan was about to declare himself king, we managed to reveal that rat for the hideous scoundrel he truly is! Then, he snatched Olivia, & took her away in his dirigible, but Basil, Dr. Dawson, & I were able to build an airship of our own, & soon, we were chasing Ratigan & Fidget all throughout the skies of London! "Suddenly, Ratigan accidentally crashed his blimp into the clock tower of Big Ben, catapulting him & Olivia inside—along with Basil, who had stowed away onto the airship! Basil caught Olivia, & managed to bring her out of the clock tower, where I caught her, & brought her safely onto the hot-air balloon. But, then, Ratigan tackled Basil onto the big minute hand of the clock, & then began to battle with him! Och, the fight was intense! It looked as though Ratigan was going to win, but Basil managed to trick him into falling off of the clock tower, & he was never seen again... "And so, Basil, Dr. Dawson, Olivia, & I all went back to Baker Street; we stayed there for a week, & after we had all attended the big ceremony at Buckingham—where Basil was knighted, & received his award for service to the crown—I decided that maybe it was best we left London for a while to recover from all that we'd been through.  So, once we had said our 'goodbyes' to Basil & Dr. Dawson, Olivia & I packed up, & took the next train to Scotland. And, well, here we are!" The Flaversham elders & their friends were simply awestruck by Hiram's story. For a few seconds, they were too stunned to say anything, until Wendy finally broke the silence with a coo of "Wow..." "So that's what's been going on with you & Olivia!" Grandpa Malcolm exclaimed. "I had no idea," said Grandma Kayley. "But, then again, I suppose I didn't bother to look in the newspapers. You know how Grandpa Malcolm is about those bloody things." "Well, Kayley, dear," Grandpa Malcolm complained, "the problem is that they take too long to get here! Why don't we just set up an electronic system instead, where you could access information anytime, anywhere, & news would come to your door at the push of a button!" Mr. Gordon liked the sound of that! "That's certainly a fascinating idea, Malcolm," he complimented. When he heard Mr. Gordon's praise, Grandpa Malcolm turned to face his neighbor, & smiled at him. Miss Leesha, however, just glared at the older mouse, & said in a disparaging tone, "But I think you've been reading one too many of those science-fiction magazines. Stories like this can't come true." "Oh, & what makes you say that, Leesha?" Grandpa Malcolm countered. "After all, we ought to consider the Industrial Revolution that's been going on lately. All those factories & manufacturing plants are being put into place, &, these days, we're making all sorts of things that no one would have even dreamed of a few decades ago! And if the revolution keeps going at the rate it is now...why, we just might have ourselves a whole new technology before the year is out!" "Malcolm is right, Leesha," Grandma Kayley advised. "You don't really know what the future holds in store for mousedom." "Right on!" Doug said with a supportive smile, pumping a paw into the air. "Progressive thinking is the way to go!" Mr. Gordon cheered. "Well-done, Kayley!" A flattered Grandma Kayley couldn't help but beam in reaction to the praise, & Grandpa Malcolm, Mr. Gordon, Hiram, & the mouselings all returned the pleasant, positive expression on their own faces. Miss Leesha just gave an annoyed roll of her eyes, & went back to reading the novel that was once resting in her lap. The conversations among the mice continued for a few more minutes, until Hiram looked at the time on the grandfather clock in the corner of the room...& stifled a great big yawn. It was only a quarter to 10:00, &, already, he was feeling tired! Turning to face his daughter (who was still clutching her dancing doll against her), the toymaker said, "Olivia, dear, it's time for you to go to bed." Then, to Miss Leesha & Mr. Gordon's children, he added, "And since you'll be staying upstairs for tonight's sleepover, the same applies to you, too." (Not too long after Olivia & her friends had reunited with their parents on the front lawn, they asked Hiram, Miss Leesha, & Mr. Gordon if they could all spend the night at Grandma Kayley & Grandpa Malcolm's farmhouse, which they sometimes did whenever Olivia came to visit [or vice versa]. The three adults gladly accepted their children's offer, & Grandpa Malcolm & Grandma Kayley were all-too-happy to make lodging arrangements for Doug, Fran, Russell, & Wendy.) Not really feeling sleepy—& wanting to stay up just a little longer—Olivia & her friends groaned & grumbled as they reluctantly got up onto the floor, & began trudging off upstairs to the big bedroom they would be sharing on the second floor. But their unenthusiastic mood quickly changed when they heard Hiram give them a little incentive: "Now, don't be so fussy, wee ones! If you all follow your nighttime routines, & behave like good little mouselings, I'll read you a bedtime story..." With that alluring prospect in mind, Olivia, Doug, Fran, Russell, & Wendy all dashed up the staircase to exit the living room, & after the adults had all watched them leave, Hiram got up off the couch, & turned to face his parents & neighbors as he said, "Well, I suppose I'll be going to bed now, myself. Goodnight, everyone." And, so, Hiram turned away, & began making his way up the stairwell to follow the children, while Miss Leesha, Mr. Gordon, Grandpa Malcolm, & Grandma Kayley all waved & bid "goodnight" wishes to him. ________________________________________ (CUE MUSIC: "Piano Concerto No. 5 In E-Flat Major", by Johann Sebastian Bach) Later, in the upstairs bedroom, Olivia, Arden, Doug, Fran, Russell, & Wendy were all ready for their evening slumber, having just changed into their nightclothes. The 6 mouselings crawled into their separate beds, & cuddled up under the vibrantly-colored patchwork quilts that adorned their soft mattresses. And, as usual, Olivia snuggled her dancing doll, while Wendy huggled her rag-dolly. Before too long, the children were all settled down into bed, & Hiram came into the room, clutching a big storybook in the crook of his arm. As he approached Olivia & the others, Hiram asked, "Has everyone taken their baths?"
"Yes," Olivia, her sister, & their friends replied in unison, nodding their heads.
"Brushed their teeth?"
"Combed their fur?"
"All your night chores have been taken care of?" Hiram inquired to make sure.
Olivia, her sister, & their pals all gave a silent nod in reply, with Wendy being the only one to pipe up: "Yes, Mr. Hiram."
With that, Hiram gave a satisfied smile, & took a seat on a stool that had been placed in the middle of the room, so all the mouselings could see him from the surrounding beds. "All right, then," Hiram said, as he sat down, rested the storybook on his lap, & opened it up. "I'm going to read you all that bedtime story I promised you." After turning over to the first page, Hiram cleared his throat, & began reading from the text upon it: "Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there was a princess..."
"What was her name, Mr. Hiram?" Fran wondered aloud. "Was it Fran?"
"How about Olivia?"
"Arden?" "Well, the book doesn't really mention her name," Hiram replied. "Let's just say, 'the princess'...So, anyway, this princess lived happily with her parents, the king & queen, in a great big castle with servants, & a moat, & white miniature horses that pulled the royal carriage..." The children cooed & muttered in fascination, enraptured by the tale that Hiram was telling them. "So, one day, the princess went out to the royal garden to pick flowers. She was having such fun, that she didn't see a big, mean..." "Dragon!" Wendy finished in a mock-roar, making a ferocious pose with her arms & face. "Yes, right, a dragon," Hiram said, "who swooped down, & caught the princess!" Collective gasps of terror from Olivia & her friends. "As the dragon was carrying the princess to his secret hideout, however, a dashing young prince saw the whole thing happening while he was making his way to the palace. He bravely got on his noble miniature steed, & followed after the dragon, hoping to find the princess, & rescue her from any danger..."
The story continued for several minutes, & after it was over, Hiram put the storybook back down on the stool, then went over to kiss each of the mouselings, & bid them "goodnight", before leaving for his own room at the end of the second-floor hallway (but not without turning on the small kerosene lamp that hung from the ceiling, serving as a makeshift night-light). For the next couple of hours, Olivia, Arden, Doug, Fran, Russell, & Wendy lay sound asleep in their respective beds...until, shortly after midnight, Olivia silently opened her eyes, & woke up from her slumber, which had been interrupted by a series of strange sounds that could be heard coming from the other side of the farmhouse. Clutching her dancing doll at her side, the little Scotsmouse (wearing a pair of red footy pajamas to match the bow) crawled out of bed, & quietly tiptoed across the room, while her sister & friends continued to sleep peacefully, their forty winks uninterrupted.
After opening the bedroom door with a gentle creak, Olivia stepped out into the second-floor corridor, then made her way down the hallway, until she reached her father's room at the other end. Making sure not to make any noise, Olivia opened the door, & peeked inside. Through the crack in the semi-open doorway, Olivia could see that Hiram was wide awake...& dressed in the greenish-beige shirt-sleeves, dark-green trousers, olive-green apron, brown shoes, & big red bow-tie that he often wore when he did his toymaking job. And, as a matter of fact, Hiram was seated at the large table in the middle of the bedroom, working busily on making a new batch of toys at this very moment. Olivia also noticed that there was a packed suitcase lying at her father's feet, & two valises—not yet filled with the clothes, tools, & other things he was probably intending to pack—lay open on the mattress of his bed.
Olivia was puzzled & confused by the sights she was seeing. What was her father doing up at this hour? Why was he working on toys, & wearing his work clothes? What were those suitcases doing on his bed? Why was he packing things into them? There were too many questions, & not enough answers...While Olivia was wondering about all those things, Hiram stopped working for a moment, & looked up from the table to see that the bedroom door was ajar; in the open space, he could see part of a familiar face looking in his direction. "Olivia, dear, what are you doing up so late?" asked Hiram. "You should be in bed."
"I couldn't sleep," Olivia replied, opening the door a bit more to make her way inside the room. "I heard you working."
"Oh, sorry that I woke you up, dear," Hiram said, looking surprised. Then, moving over on the work-bench to make some room for Olivia, he added, "But while you're here, why don't you come sit down next to me?" Olivia was glad to do so, & after she sat down beside Hiram at the table, she watched him continue with his work on the new set of toys.
"Daddy," Olivia asked Hiram as she saw him engaging in his late-night labor, "are you making toys?" "Yes, I am, dear," Hiram answered, not looking up at Olivia. He continued to work on the toys for a silent moment...until Olivia grabbed his attention again with an offhand comment: "I thought you closed down the toy shop."
Hiram froze, stunned that his daughter had brought up the topic he'd intended to discuss with her tomorrow morning, after breakfast. He had hoped that would have been a better time to tell Olivia the news, but, since she had already asked, there was no point in keeping it a secret any longer. "Well, um...about that, dear," Hiram said shyly as he looked up from his work to face Olivia, "I think it's time we had a little talk between us two." After picking Olivia up, & placing her in his lap, Hiram took a moment to put down the tool he'd been holding in his hand, before facing his daughter once again as he continued, "I was going to wait until the morning to tell you this, but...I've been thinking, Olivia...that, maybe, it's time we go back to the toy shop in London."
Olivia simply couldn't believe her ears! "What?" she gasped in incredulity.
"It was originally my plan for us to stay in Scotland a while longer, but I'm afraid we'll have to change these plans," Hiram explained, extending his "right" paw to take out a newspaper clipping, which he slid across the table to Olivia. "You see this piece of newspaper here, Olivia?" Hiram asked as he showed her the clipping. "Can you read it?"
Squinting down at the text upon the article, Olivia read aloud from the tiny print: "Toymaking Industry Booms In Mouse London...Once-Obscure Career Field Is Now Becoming Increasingly Popular...Every day, more & more toymakers are setting up businesses in Mouse London, & selling their wares to the micefolk of the city...who apparently are providing great patronage for the toymaking industry, as evidence from recent sta..." She paused at the unfamiliar word.
"Statistics," Hiram clarified, & Olivia continued where she left off: "...statistics shows to us...The number of customers for these toymaking businesses is growing, with an average of at least 50 customers per day...& this trend is only expected to continue to rise as time goes on..." Upon finishing that sentence, Olivia looked up from the newspaper clipping, & gazed up at Hiram with a bewildered, confused expression, not sure what to make of everything she had just read.
"Do you know what this means, dear?" Hiram asked, smiling down at Olivia.
When the answer finally came to her, Olivia returned the smile at her father, as she guessed correctly, "That if we go back to London, we can reopen the toy shop?"
"Yes, & get even more customers than we ever had before!" Hiram exclaimed happily. "Just imagine how many more smiles we'll bring onto children's faces! How much more joy & happiness we'll bring into rodents' lives!" Unable to contain his enthusiasm, Hiram swiftly got off of the workbench, & began dancing with Olivia across the floor of the bedroom; Olivia couldn't help but gladly join in the dance, smiling broadly as she relished in her father's mood of merriment. All the while, Hiram cried out joyfully, "If we reopen the shop, things will be even better for us & our customers than they ever were in the past! It'll be so wonderful to finally come back home to London!"
When Hiram had finished dancing with Olivia, he gently set her down on the floor, & as her father released his hands from her sides, Olivia's face sported a dreamy, nostalgic look. So many thoughts were rushing through her head at this point in time, & Olivia simply could not find a way to express her inner ecstasy at the marvelous news she had just heard. For the most part, she was stunned speechless, yet she did manage to whisper, "We're coming home...to London..." For the next few moments, that starry-eyed expression remained on Olivia's countenance...until, when a thought came to the mouseling's mind, it changed to a look of puzzlement. "But what about Grandma Kayley & Grandpa Malcolm?" Olivia asked. "And all our friends?"
"Well, they'll stay here on the farm," Hiram answered. The toymaker was now standing at his bedside, busily packing his clothes, tools, fursonal items, & other things into the two open suitcases that lay on the mattress. "But don't worry, Olivia," he assured his daughter. "We can always go to visit them. And if, somehow, we can't, then we'll write letters to them." After shutting the lid closed on one of his valises, & taking up that suitcase into his "right" paw, Hiram turned to give a reassuring smile at Olivia, as he said comfortingly, "Olivia, dear, don't worry...Everything's going to work out wonderfully. It'll be as though we never even left London!"
Of course, there were some things that would always be different for the Flavershams, & Hiram, Arden, & Olivia all knew that all-too-well. In fact, Olivia kept a little reminder of those things with her, so whenever she felt like looking at her collection of fursonal relics, she could always take out that particular memento, & look back on the events of her greatest adventure...& also remember the day when she first encountered a certain pair of mice, who she had come to consider as two of her dearest friends. "Well, almost," Olivia told Hiram with an optimistic smile, as she reached behind her back, & magically whipped out a photograph. Holding the picture in her paw, Olivia gazed fondly at the image it portrayed: it was of Basil Of Baker Street mugging for the camera, with Dr. Dawson & Olivia herself in either of the detective's arms—& looking absolutely bewildered! The picture had been taken after the trio of mice had successfully freed themselves from the overkill trap that was supposed to have done them in; thanks to Basil's quick thinking, that tragedy was avoided & averted, & Olivia was thankful that things turned out the way they did—otherwise, all of the United Mouse Kingdom would have been doomed to a dictatorial reign, with that rascally Ratigan as their leader!
The more she thought about Basil & Dr. Dawson, the more Olivia wondered about what they were up to in recent weeks...& the more she wanted to pay them a visit! Perhaps, Olivia thought, we can come see them after we've gotten settled into our old home, & reopened the toy shop. I'm sure they'll be delighted to see us again! And Olivia could hardly wait for her & her father to do the same... ________________________________________ Sunday, August 23, 1897
The following morning was very much the same as it was yesterday—bright, sunny, & clear, with the usual chirping of birds, buzzing of bees, & blossoming of flowers in the fields. The Flavershams & their friends had finished breakfast not too long ago, &, now, Olivia, Arden, & Hiram were standing in front of their family's farmhouse; the two were clutching small suitcases in their paws (with Olivia holding her dancing doll in the crook of her arm), & dressed in their outing clothes (Hiram in his fancy blue outfit, Olivia in her blue dress coat, a matching tam-o'-shanter with a red pom-pom, a black ribbon, & a matching brim, & a baby-blue scarf with a red plaid pattern, & Arden in a black dress coat, a red scarf, & matching boots over her socks & shoes). Not too far away, a group of burly muscle-mice were helping to move the Flavershams' numerous possessions (family heirlooms, toys & games, books, boxes of photos & other important items, trunks of clothing, home-built appliances & other devices, furniture, & whatnot) into a miniature fleet of moving vans. The Flavershams' lime-green car (which Hiram had bought in Mouse Edinburgh shortly after the arrival into Scotland) stood in front of the aforementioned fleet, ready to take off for Mouse London. By this point, Miss Leesha, Mr. Gordon, their children, Grandpa Malcolm, & Grandma Kayley had all heard the news that Olivia & Hiram were leaving for their old home, & (as would be expected) they were reluctant to part ways with them, especially after spending so much time together. Grandpa Malcolm, Grandma Kayley, & their neighbors all went outside to hug Hiram & Olivia tightly, giving them plenty of cuddles & kisses as they bid their two loved ones "goodbye". "Oh..."—sniffle—"...are you sure you two can't stay for just a little while longer?" Miss Leesha asked Olivia & Hiram as she hugged them, not bothering to wipe the tears that were falling from her eyes. "Don't worry, Leesha," Hiram said with a warm smile, patting his pal's shoulder, & quickly returning her hug (as Olivia did the same with her leg). "We'll come & visit as much as we can. I promise." With that in mind, Miss Leesha smiled back at Hiram, & dabbed at her moist eyes with a pawkerchief, as she replied, "Well, all right. Just be careful on your way home." "We will, Miss Leesha," Olivia assured her older friend, as she parted from her embrace, & picked up her dancing doll & suitcases (which had been placed on the ground before Olivia had given Leesha her last leg-hug). And, so, Hiram & Olivia began walking away with their valises & things in hand, but as they made their way to their car, they turned to wave & smile as they shouted "goodbye" to their relatives & friends, who did the same to them in return. Then, Hiram & Olivia got into the car, & shut the doors behind them. Once he & his daughter were buckled up, Hiram started the engine, & began driving down the road leading back to Mouse London; the fleet of moving vans followed the Flavershams' car immediately afterwards, accompanying the two mice on their journey home. Just as the automobile left the front yard, Olivia peeked out through the rear window from the back seat, still smiling broadly as she waved "goodbye" to her grandparents & friends one last time. As the car drove further & further away from the Flaversham family farm, Olivia could still see Grandma Kayley, Grandpa Malcolm, & the neighbors smiling, waving, & bidding "farewell" to her, hoping they would be able to see her & her father again someday soon... ________________________________________ (CUE MUSIC: "Venus" from Gustav Holst's "The Planets") Twilight was beginning to fall over Mouse London, & the miniature cityscape was bathed in the purple & pink hues of the gorgeous sunset that was taking place. The streets of the West End were quiet on this peaceful evening, & hardly any rodents or vehicles (if any at all) could be seen travelling the cobblestone-lined roads. But in the Fulham district of London, on the mouse street of Walnut Avenue (known to us humans as Michael Road), that atmosphere of emptiness was about to be changed...  After a day-long journey from the Scottish Highlands, the Flavershams had finally returned to their old neighborhood, &, now, they were driving their car down the shoulder of the road (an area specially designated for rodent transportation), with the fleet of moving vans following in their wake.  Soon, the Flavershams' car (& the vans) pulled to a stop in front of the curb, just outside the toy shop where Hiram & his family had lived & worked for as long as anyone could remember... Once they had parked their car, Olivia & Hiram opened the doors, & got out, still clutching their suitcases & things (along with the dancing doll that Olivia continued to hold in the crook of her arm). After getting out with their possessions, & shutting the car doors behind them, the Flavershams made their way to the front door of the toy shop, which still lay completely untouched & undisturbed after the entire month it had been neglected (even the "closed" sign was still hanging in the front window). Hiram took out a key from his jacket-breast pocket, & placed it into the lock; after unlocking the door, he pushed it open with a rusty creak...& he & Olivia were surprised to see the inside of the shop's main room! The big overhead light was off, giving the dark chamber a hollow, haunting ambiance. The floor, the furniture, & all the toys on the display shelves (such as the sailboat, the big bouncing ball, the toy soldiers, & the dollhouse) were covered in the dust & cobwebs that had gathered over the last few weeks. Overall, the place appeared to be in pretty bad shape, & that was the first thing Olivia & Hiram noticed when they saw it. "Oh, my!" Hiram exclaimed upon seeing the state that the toy shop was in. "This place has fallen apart since we left for Scotland last month!" But the toymaker's shocked look soon switched to an optimistic smile, & he said to Olivia, "But it's nothing we can't fix. Let's unpack our things, & get settled in, & once we're done with that, I'll have this place cleaned up faster than you can say 'tam-o'shanter'!" With that, Olivia & Hiram both stepped into the toy shop, carrying their valises & whatnot, as the muscle-mice struggled to bring the Flavershams' possessions out of the moving vans, & into the house. Moments later, the movers were still bringing things into the kitchen & bedrooms behind the main chamber, but Olivia & her father were already starting to make themselves feel at home again. Before long, the dust & cobwebs had been cleared off all the furniture & toys, & Olivia was now seated at Hiram's workbench, coloring pictures with crayons. The overhead lamp was now turned on, providing enough light for Olivia to see properly while she drew, while Hiram (standing not too far away from his daughter) swept a big broom across the wooden-planked floor to clean up the dust & other things that were still on it, humming the bars of a jaunty Scottish tune as he did so. Daddy was right, Olivia thought to herself pleasantly, as she put the finishing touches on the picture she was coloring. It's as though we never even left London in the first place! Already, I'm beginning to feel right at home... After completing her picture, Olivia gently picked it up, & placed it down beside her on the surface of the table, before taking her crayons, & drawing a new picture with them on the blank sheet of paper that now lay in front of her. She started out with a landscape of a grassy, sunlit park, with puffy white clouds floating in the blue skies above...Then, she gradually added an image of herself smiling & holding hands with a just-as-happy-looking Basil & Dr. Dawson; Olivia & Basil's joined paws both clutched at a batch of rainbow balloons, while Basil (all decked out in his mouse detective uniform) held his magnifying glass in his free hand. Resting her head against the palm of her "left" paw, Olivia gazed down at the now-finished picture with a dreamy smile on her face; she couldn't stop thinking about how much she'd missed Basil & Dr. Dawson during her days of absence, & how much she was looking forward to visiting them...one day, soon... Olivia was soon brought out of her blissful reverie when her ears perked up to the sound of knocking. Lifting her head up from her palm, Olivia turned to gaze in the direction of the front door, with her mouth hanging open in curiosity, as she wondered who the Flavershams' visitor could be. Upon hearing the knocking, Hiram stopped sweeping the floor, then rested his broom against one of his work-cabinets, & went over to the door. After opening said door with its usual creak, Hiram looked down...& saw two familiar fursons standing in the threshold.
One was a young mouse boy of 9—who was of average height & lean for his age—with features that—though inherited from his parents—mostly resembled those of Doug, through some strange quirk of genetics or fate (or both); his fur was tan, & boasted light-tan markings that went all across his muzzle & underbelly, but his eyes were brown, his nose was dark red & heart-shaped, & a wave of tan fur-hair adorned the top of his head (which sported wide & curvy cheekbones). He was dressed in the traditional attire of a Mousetorian schoolboy, with his outfit consisting of a rather colorful ensemble; a golden-yellow shirt with long sleeves, a brown English cap that normally fit snugly upon his head, & a pair of loose-fitting, olive-green trousers (which ended a few mouse inches above his ankles, & were held up by a brown leather belt with a golden buckle) covered the upper & lower halves of his body, while a single-breasted scarlet vest was worn open over the aforementioned shirt. His feet were enclosed in long white socks & black shoes with golden buckles on top. His name was Timothy Flaversham, or Timmy for short.
The second was a mouse girl who was the same age as Timmy, & also of average height & lean for her age, but she was 2 minutes younger than him; plus, her features strongly resembled those of Fran. She also had tan fur with light-tan markings that went all across to her muzzle & underbelly, sparkling blue eyes, a dark red heart-shaped nose, & large, round ears. She also had wide, curvy cheekbones & long, straight, black hair that went down to her rear end. A blue garden-style hat (decorated with a light blue ribbon around the "dome" & a pink flower stuck inside the hat on the left side) rested on the crown of her head. She was also wearing a pair of white panties that was set between her legs and fastened at her waist, a red hair-bow behind her left ear, a white collar, turquoise sweater with long sleeves, & a purple miniskirt that went down to her knees, which went well with a pair of white knee-high socks & a pair of black Mary Jane shoes covering her feet. Her name was Tina Flaversham, Timmy's twin sister. Ever since she was 3 years old, she had been diagnosed with autism.
But Timmy's cap was not in its usual place. Instead, the mouseling was holding the hat in his paws, wringing it about nervously as he looked up at Hiram with a shy, timid gaze. Shifting his weight a little, the lean, lanky lad greeted the toymaker timorously, "Hello...Uncle Hiram..." He let out a gulp, before placing his English cap back on his head, cupping his hands together, & wringing them instead, as he asked, "May I please come in?" 
Hiram was shocked to be seeing the young mouseling who had just addressed him; it was none other than his nephew, Timmy Flaversham! Hiram had to wonder what he was doing on Walnut Avenue, for this was not a place he was supposed to be at this time of day—or at any time, unless he was doing community service...or had otherwise been given permission to come here by the staff at St. Mary's. "Timmy, what are you doing here?" Hiram asked the boy. "Why aren't you at the youth hostel? Mother Caulfield & all the nuns & the priests should be working with you right now, trying to shape up your behavior."
In a mere matter of moments, Cousin Timmy's once-timid demeanor changed, & he quickly adopted an argumentative, confrontational attitude—an attitude not entirely unlike the one he would often display when he wanted to make himself appear more "macho"...but one he put on for reasons related to the rebellious nature he had acquired in the last few years. "All right, you wanna know the truth?" Cousin Timmy told Hiram in a tough tone-of-voice. "I couldn't take it anymore! I tried to tolerate my boring, dull, plain-Jane life at St. Mary's for 3 years, but that was more than enough for me! And, so, you know what happened? I finally got fed up with it! I was sick & tired of having to deal with all those stuffed shirts, so I ran away! Yeah, that's what I did—I ran away from St. Mary's...& I won't be going back there ever again, for as long as I live!"
"Oh, yes, you will, Timmy," Hiram said sternly, glaring down at his nephew with the look indicating that he meant business. "I don't care how dull or boring you thought living at St. Mary's was. That's no excuse for not finding a way to improve your behavior, & I see no reason why I shouldn't take you back to the youth hostel."
"Tell that to Mother Caulfield!" Cousin Tina retorted with a scoff. "She was getting tired of having to deal with my brother, too! Heck, she couldn't wait until he left the hostel..."
"Well, it doesn't matter how anybody feels or thinks," Hiram replied. "Your brother did all sorts of naughty things, & brought grief & shame to your poor sister & parents & all your loved ones. And, now, you need to learn how to atone for your actions."
"I already apologized to Mom, Mother Caulfield, Mr. Altoid, & all those other people! I've said 'Hail, Mary' more times than I can even try to count! I did my community service, took my rehabilitation classes, attended my counseling sessions, went to church every Sunday & holy day..."
"And you still have a long way to go, before you can even consider yourself to be truly rehabilitated!" Hiram told Cousin Timmy with a harsh glare. "You're going back to St. Mary's, even if I have to drag you there by the ear!"
"Are you crazy?" Cousin Timmy blurted out in dismay. "I can't go back there, especially after I ran away!"
"Besides," Cousin Tina said. "They'll torture him! They'll flog him! They'll condemn him to heck, & he'll be doomed to wander in eternal misery & suffering for the entire duration of his afterlife!"
"No one is ever that unfortunate, Tina," Hiram said. "And, besides, if Timmy apologizes to Mother Caulfield, I'm sure she'll forgive him."
"But do you know how long it took me to get here from St. Mary's?" Cousin Timmy exclaimed, now having reached the point of hysterics. Cousin Tina began telling her uncle a story of what happened to her brother. "First, Timmy had to hide in a trash can, & wait until the garbage-mouse came to pick it up; then, after the garbage-mouse took the can outside, he jumped out onto the sidewalk, & ran all the way to the end of Coronation Street! Then, he had to hop aboard a human's carriage that stopped at Regents Park, & he went all the way to the other side, before stowing away on another carriage that took him to Crown Street. After that, he got off, made his way down the Crown Street offshoot, turned the corner past Sophie's Flower Shop, & walked all the way down Walnut Avenue, until he met me, mama, & papa, and we reached reached your toy shop! It took us 7 freakin' hours to get to your house from the North End, without even stopping for lunch, dinner, or a washroom break! If we went back to St. Mary's now, & didn't make any stops, we'd probably get there by 2:00 AM...& keel over from exhaustion before we could even talk to anybody!"
"Well, there's no need to worry about that," Hiram said, as the look on his face softened. "Olivia, Arden, & I will take you both down to St. Mary's in the morning, &, then, we'll meet with Mother Caulfield. Does that sound good to you?"
"I guess so," Cousin Timmy answered...even though he still wasn't feeling all that geared-up to go back to the youth hostel. "But where can I stay until we see Mother Caulfield tomorrow?" he asked, more to himself than to Hiram.
"As they say in Mexico, 'mi casa es su casa', dear nephew & niece," Hiram said with a smile, as he moved to gesture into the open doorway of the toy shop. With that, Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina scampered into the main room, & Hiram followed them inside, shutting the door behind him as he did so. Despite Cousin Timmy's earlier reluctance to return to St. Mary's, Hiram & Cousin Tina saw his change in attitude as an assuring sign that they would be able to get this mess straightened out with little (if any) muss or fuss. He just hoped that Cousin Timmy would feel more inclined to commit himself to the process of rehabilitation...for his sake, as well as that of his loved ones. ________________________________________ A few minutes later, dusk had fallen over Walnut Avenue (as well as the rest of Mouse London), & Cousin Timmy had quickly gotten settled into his temporary lodgings. By this time, Olivia had finished drawing, & her pictures & crayons lay together on another part of Hiram's worktable; now, she was quietly playing with a small set of action figures, as Timmy watched her from behind. The two cousins had not spoken to one another since Timmy entered the Flavershams' home, but that quickly changed when Cousin Timmy broke the silence with a clearing of his throat. "Hello, Cousin Olivia," he greeted with a friendly smile, though Olivia didn't notice him as she was playing with her toys. "So...how have things been going, Livvy?" Timmy asked, calling his cousin by one of her pet names. "Hmm...pretty good," Olivia replied. "How was your time up at Grandpa Malcolm & Grandma Kayley's?" Cousin Timmy inquired, hoping to make conversation. "Fine," Olivia answered. "Anything new happen lately?" "Aside from the fact that we just moved back into the toy shop," Olivia responded, "nothing much." "Oh. OK," Cousin Timmy said. A few more moments of silence passed, as Timmy went over to the worktable, & sat down beside Olivia in a small chair. As he took his seat, Cousin Timmy continued, "You know, I was kinda surprised when I saw the moving vans at the toy shop. I thought you & Uncle Hiram weren't coming back to London for a while longer." "That's what I thought, too," Olivia remarked, continuing to play with her toys. "But Daddy told me last night that if we moved back in early, we could reopen the toy shop, & take part in the big business boom that's hitting the toy industry." "Ohhh...I see..." said Cousin Timmy, nodding his head in understanding. "So, when are you gonna reopen the toy shop?" "Probably tomorrow," Olivia replied. "It depends on when we get settled in again, but it shouldn't take too long." "OK," Cousin Timmy uttered. Suddenly, before their conversations could continue, both mouselings reacted to the sound of Hiram calling out to them: "Children, I'm going out to pick up some dinner! Is there anything you'd like?" "Maybe a meal from a restaurant, if you please?" Olivia asked politely. "If it's all right with you, Uncle Hiram, I'd like a restaurant meal, too," Cousin Timmy assented, his speech slightly overlapping with Olivia's. "OK," Hiram replied, as he prepared to exit the toy shop. "I'll be back in about an hour, if not sooner. Now, don't get into mischief, & I'm going to lock the door, so nobody tries to sneak in." With that, Hiram walked out the front door, & left the house (but not without shutting said door, & locking it). As soon as Hiram was gone, Olivia & Cousin Timmy turned to face one another with somewhat-anxious expressions. The notion of somebody trying to sneak into the Flavershams' toy shop had brought back unpleasant memories of Hiram's kidnapping last month, & those recollections left the mouselings with a rather unsettling feeling. "Nobody's gonna sneak in," Cousin Timmy asked apprehensively, "are they, Livvy?" "Well, if by 'nobody', you mean Ratigan & Fidget," Olivia answered, "then you can rest easy. They're both dead." The confident tone that had marked Olivia's voice—& the equally-confident look on her face—soon disappeared, however, when she heard Timmy ask her skeptically, "Are you sure about that, Livvy?" Upon listening to Cousin Timmy's question, Olivia paused in thoughtful consideration. The two villains could be dead...After all, she had watched Fidget fall into the Thames River, & witnessed Ratigan plummeting from the hour hand of Big Ben! She assumed that Fidget had drowned, & Ratigan had fallen to his death...but what if Fidget was a good swimmer, & managed to make his way to the surface of the river? What if Ratigan had fallen onto the back of a passing bird? What if some other winged creature caught him, & brought him to safety? What if his fall had been broken when he landed in a trash barge?  Thinking about all the different possibilities made Olivia feel sick with worry. She hoped her father would come home soon, so he could reassure her that Ratigan & Fidget were, indeed, gone for good...unless Cousin Timmy's suspicions turned out to be true! ________________________________________ Not too long after he had left Walnut Avenue, Hiram was doing his best to be patient, as he looked around for a good place to stop for tonight's dinner. If it were earlier in the day, he would have taken his car, but since it was dusk (not to mention the fact that it takes longer for a mouse to travel London in a pint-sized vehicle), Hiram wanted to save some time by stowing away on the undercarriage of a human's hansom cab. Said cab was making its way through the West End of Mouse London, going northwards to the Covent Garden district. The street above the eponymous square, in addition to the world-famous Royal Opera House, also boasted several restaurants, & Hiram intended to visit one of them during his stay in Covent Garden.  Before Hiram knew it, the carriage had already arrived on the mouse street of Covent Lane (known to us humans as Floral Street), & after jumping onto the pavement to exit his ride, Hiram began walking down the sidewalk, looking at each place he passed...until, finally, he stopped when he got to a mouse building in an empty space on the street. This structure—one of the thousands of "stand-alone" buildings  that could be found in Mouse London—bore the address of 325 Covent Lane, & Hiram quickly saw that it was exactly the kind of establishment he was looking for! The restaurant (which had been given the clever name of "A Taste Of America") resembled a New York brownstone, fashioned out of red brickwork; a red-&-white striped canopy hovered over the green double-doors, & in the eatery's large square windows, Hiram could see diners seated at tables, as they helped themselves to all sorts of delicious foods. Even as he stood outside, the toymaker could smell a wide variety of delectable aromas that graced his nostrils with their scent, beckoning him to come inside the restaurant, & see what it had to offer... With that, Hiram walked into the building, which was crowded with customers—those who were dining at the tables, & those who were waiting in line to place their orders at the counter. Still wanting to save some time, Hiram got in the back of the shortest line, & when it was his turn to approach the counter, he told the cashier, "Excuse me...If it's not too much trouble, I'd like to place five orders."
"Aye, sir," the cashier said with a cheerful smile & a pleasant air. "What'll you have?"
Hiram looked up at the list of food & beverages for purchase (which was positioned above the counter), & scrutinized each item carefully. There were so many yummy things on the menu...so many, in fact, that it was almost impossible to choose any of them! It took a while for Hiram to make a decision, but, finally, he said, "I think...I'll have, for the first meal, a large order of cheesy fries, a hamburger with plenty of pickles, lettuce, tomato, bacon, ketchup, & mustard, & a root beer. For the second meal, I'll have a large order of curly fries with extra ketchup packets, a hot dog with plenty of mustard & pickles, & a root beer." The cashier began entering Hiram's orders into the cash register's built-in computer, typing out everything he said. "For the third order, I'll have a root beer with a large order of curly fries & extra ketchup packets, along with a double-cheeseburger. For the fourth order, I'll have a large order of curly fries with extra ketchup packets, a chili dog topped with shredded, melted cheddar cheese, & a root beer."
"And for yourself?" the cashier asked Hiram, as he continued to type in the orders.
"Eh, I'll just have a regular hamburger & fries," Hiram replied.
With that, the cashier pressed a button on the cash register, prompting it to print out a piece of paper that listed all the items for Hiram's orders. As he took the printout out of the register, & went to bring it the kitchen staff, the cashier told Hiram, "Coming right up, sir!" Upon receiving the cashier's latest list of orders, the fry cooks & other workers started to prepare the food, & the cashier gestured for Hiram to join the crowd of customers gathered outside a large window that gave them a view of the kitchen area. Hiram & the other patrons watched in absolute amazement when they saw the cooks & chefs making the meals, using an assortment of appliances & devices that they had never seen before in their entire lives! Still sporting looks of fascination on their faces, Hiram & his fellow bystanders saw the workers cutting & shredding potatoes with strange-looking machines (some of which looked very much like pencil sharpeners), cooking the potato pieces in deep-fat fryers, warming up weenies in special microwave ovens, & heating up hamburger patties on giant grills, among other tasks. A few members of the kitchen staff gathered packets of condiments for the customers, while some collected different soft drinks from soda machines, & others decorated the hamburgers, hot dogs, & other treats with all kinds of toppings—ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, cheese, & whatnot. The sight of the food & beverages soon made the watching customers hungry...&, oh, how their mouths watered when the patties began sizzling & simmering on the grill, as the oil in the deep-fat fryers bubbled & boiled...
One by one, when each meal was prepared, the cashier called for one of the customers at the kitchen window to pick up their order, &, before long, Hiram was beckoned to the counter to fetch his food, which lay on the surface of the desk in red-&-white-checkered paper "bowls" & plates.
Looking up at Hiram with a satisfied smile, the cashier said, "Yes, it's certainly fascinating, isn't it? And all this was made with brand-new methods of preparing food! In fact, 'A Taste Of America' has the distinction of being the mouse world's very first fast-food restaurant! Soon, every other mouse city & town will follow in our footsteps, & there won't be a place you'll go that doesn't at least one fast-food joint!" 
"Yes..." Hiram muttered in reply, liking the sound of that idea.
"So, is there anything else I can do for you, sir?" inquired the cashier.
Hiram looked down at his family's meals, then up at the cashier, pointing at the food as he asked, "Umm...by any chance, can you make this to go?"
"No problem, sir!" the cashier replied, putting the food & condiment packets in white Styrofoam boxes, & the drinks in white Styrofoam cups (complete with plastic lids & straws).  When he had handed the food to Hiram, he also made sure to give him a complementary microwave oven that came with every "to-go" order. "There's an instruction manual inside the oven," the cashier explained, "& in the back, there's a power cord that you can plug into your wall. Just follow the directions, & you shouldn't have any trouble with it!"
"Thank you, sir!" Hiram told the cashier with a broad smile, as he took the food & microwave into his arms, & carried them outside. Oh, boy, he couldn't wait to tell Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina about everything he had just seen while they ate their dinner—after he had heated it up in his new microwave, of course! No doubt, the offering of the oven had been an act of courtesy & consideration to Hiram (& all the others who made to-go orders), for the food would definitely get cold on the long journey home...Now that he thought about it, Hiram was reluctant to take another hansom cab back to Walnut Avenue—the earlier trip to Covent Lane had taken an entire half-hour, & when one considered the extra time he had spent at "A Taste Of America", he'd spent almost a whole hour away from the toy shop...& would probably be about 30 minutes late coming home, if he used the same mode of transportation. Oh, if only there were a faster way to get across town! Hiram thought to himself, as he started walking down the sidewalk, still carrying his newly-purchased items in his arms. I wish there was some kind of little train or tram that could zip through Mouse London, & take you to where you wanted to go in hardly any time at all!
No sooner did Hiram think this, than his ears perked up to the squealing sound of grinding metal.
Turning to gaze in the direction of the noise, he soon saw a series of sleek white cabins (connected to each other with magnetic couplings) pulling up to stop right beside him. The vehicle moved & operated very much like a streetcar—such as the type you might find in New Mouse Orleans or Mouse San Francisco—but it looked a lot more like some kind of futuristic train, with clear windows, plush-padded seats, & doors that open & shut by themselves. The outside of the train was covered in white paint, adorned with adverts & signs for various things, & one of the middle cabins bore the following name in large black letters: "MOUSETRO". At the front & sides of the train, Hiram could see electric banners flashing the names of various mouse streets in his neighborhood: Crown Street (& Offshoot), Walnut Avenue, & what not.
Without a moment's pause, Hiram made his way towards the train, & stepped inside one of the cabins, as the automatic doors slid open to grant him entry. Once said doors were shut, Hiram sat down in one of the passenger seats, & watched in amazement as the Mousetro tram began the journey from Covent Lane, smoothly gliding along the edge of the pavement on the electric railings that guided it. Hiram couldn't help but stare out the window, watching the scenery of Mouse London whizzing past him in a picturesque panorama...The darkening cityscape was lit up by all sorts of electric signs & neon lights, which took on every shape, design, & color that you could imagine. The bright glow of incandescent & fluorescent lamps filled the windows of each building, & the air was alive with all kinds of music—many of which had never been heard by Mousetorian rodents before! Hiram & the other Mousetro passengers were simply stunned by the sights & sounds they were taking in. To them, it was all so breathtaking, so marvelous...
"And you wouldn't believe we just installed all this today!" a passenger mouse exclaimed. "Madame Ratburn & that DeWalters lady—Anya, Anna, something that had an 'A' on both ends—really worked hard to get that experiment of theirs off to a good head-start..."
"What experiment?" Hiram asked, totally lost as to what was going on.
"Oh, didn't you know?" the other mouse replied. "Miss DeWalters teamed up with Madame Ratburn & all the best scientists, inventors, & engineers in Mouse London to conduct a technology experiment. Queen Mousetoria got wind of it yesterday afternoon, & she was so excited about the idea, she called everybody in the city to Trafalgar Square, where she made an announcement about the experiment, & gave an official order for it to commence that same day! And look—all of the entire West End has working electricity, not to mention that we have microwave ovens, neon, new vehicles, fast-food restaurants...Oh, & our very first Mousetro tram! You're lucky to be a passenger on its maiden voyage!"
"Wow," Hiram gasped in amazement. "I never even knew all this was going on..."
"Where have you been living?" scoffed a rat lady in disbelief. "Under a rock?"
"Mouse Scotland, actually," Hiram answered matter-of-factly. The chastened rat lady immediately let out a mutter of realization, before apologizing to Hiram for not being aware of his whereabouts. The toymaker was quick to forgive the lady for her earlier comment...though he had to admit, after all the things he had seen & heard today, he almost felt as if he had been living under a rock! Talk about culture shock! Hiram thought in astonishment, unable to stop the flurry of questions that were now running through his mind, as the Mousetro tram continued on its way to Crown Street, its offshoot, & the neighboring roads... ________________________________________ With a speed of 120 mouse miles an hour, it had only taken the Mousetro tram 15 minutes to reach its destination, & Hiram couldn't help but smile to himself, as he got off his ride, & made his way down the offshoot of Crown Street (which, by the way, is known to us humans as King's Road), before turning the corner past Sophie's Flower Shop, & finally reaching the entrance of his toy shop. As soon as the front door was opened, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina went over to greet Hiram...but they changed their decision to give him leg-hugs when they saw all the things he was carrying. "Wow," Arden commented in awe. "Where you'd go to pick up dinner, Daddy?"
"It's a long story, wee ones," Hiram replied, straining with effort as his arms—now ready to give out, after so much traveling—struggled to keep holding the microwave, food, & drinks. "But I'll tell you about it during supper..." With that, Hiram, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina stepped into the hallway at the back of the building, before making a turn to enter the first room on their "left"—none other than the family's kitchen / dining room. The eating area, like the other rooms in the house, had a bare floor & walls; the counters, cabinets, cupboards, cooking equipment, furniture, & other items were all made out of plain oak wood. As Hiram came in to place the food, beverages, & microwave on the kitchen counter, he saw something that he hadn't noticed before—there was an electrical socket inserted into the wall! Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina told Hiram that they had seen other outlets of a similar nature in different parts of the house...but Hiram didn't recall installing them before he & the twins left for Mouse Scotland! And since the house didn't show any signs of being disturbed, he didn't know how the outlets could have gotten there...unless they did so by magical means. 
Oh, well, no matter, Hiram thought dismissively, as he took out the instruction manual that directed him how to install the microwave. After he had hooked up the appliance, Hiram put each of the meals in the microwave, & heated it up for about 25 seconds, before taking the food out...& marveling at how fresh it looked, how warm it felt in his paws—almost as much as it did when it was first made at the fast-food restaurant! Sitting down at the big table, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina could hardly hide the hungry looks on their faces, as Hiram handed his daughters, nephew, & niece their food. After sitting down with the four mouselings, Hiram began tucking into his dinner, & Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy. & Cousin Tina did the same with their own meals.
While Hiram was merrily munching on his regular hamburger & fries, Olivia was greatly enjoying her hamburger with plenty of pickles, lettuce, tomato, bacon, ketchup, & mustard, root beer, & cheese-covered fries. As for Arden, she was happily eating her hot dog with plenty of pickles & mustard (a mouth-puckering combination, indeed!), root beer, & ketchup-coated curly fries; Cousin Timmy could definitely say the same for his ketchup-coated curly fries, root beer, & double-cheeseburger. Cousin Tina couldn't agree more with her chili dog topped with shredded, melted cheddar cheese, root beer, & ketchup-coated curly fries. Throughout the first several minutes of the evening feast, Hiram told Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina all about his adventures, describing the details about the wonderful things he had witnessed at the "Taste Of America" restaurant, & discussing the extraordinary events of his ride home on the Mousetro tram. Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina couldn't help but be amazed & astonished by the tales of Hiram's travels, listening to every word with absolute rapture...They were especially surprised to hear about the new technology that was beginning to sweep throughout Mouse London; already, the Flaversham family owned one of the first microwaves, & Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina all wanted to see what else was being made!
"Can we go check out all the new stuff in the city, Daddy?" Olivia asked Hiram excitedly.
"Of course, my bairn!" Hiram replied with a nod of his head. "After we get the toy shop ready for business again, I'll be happy to take you this weekend!"
"What about us, Uncle Hiram?" Cousin Timmy piped up, raising his paw.
"Can we come, too?" added Cousin Tina.
"Maybe," Hiram answered. "We'll have to ask Mother Caulfield about it, though." When he heard this, Cousin Timmy couldn't help but sulk a little; now, he could think of two new reasons why he didn't want to go back to St. Mary's...but the lad did his best not to dwell on those unpleasant feelings, as he went back to eating his supper with Cousin Tina, Olivia, Arden, & Hiram.
For the rest of the time they were at the table, the Flavershams continued dining in silence, savoring each sample of food that they took into their mouths. Finally, when everyone was done with dinner, Hiram got up out of his chair, & went to take the left-over garbage, which he tossed into a nearby wastepaper basket; Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina then rose from the table, & walked in the direction of the door that led out into the hallway. As Hiram followed the four mouselings out of the kitchen / dining room, he told them, "Bedtime starts in about an hour, children." With that in mind, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina all raced down the corridor to Olivia & Arden's room on the right end, which had already been set up for its occupants. After following Olivia, Arden, & Cousin Timmy inside the bedroom, Cousin Tina shut the door behind her, & the four youths were left alone to entertain themselves in the 60 minutes allotted before the appointed time of retirement. ________________________________________ The time seemed to fly by for Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina as they sat together on the floor of their room, quietly playing with some of the former's toys—Olivia, with her dancing doll & a set of Rainbow Blocks; Arden with a jigsaw puzzle & a spinning top; Timmy, with a bouncing ball & a toy car; Tina with a set of marbles & a smiling doll.  Before the mouselings had begun indulging in their leisurely fursuits, however, they had quickly prepared themselves for bed by changing into their nightclothes (Olivia donned her red footy pajamas matched by her hair-bow while Arden donned a fuchsia cotton nightgown with short sleeves to match the ribbon, along with a little white underdress & some matching, calf-length knickers. Timmy put on a set of golden-yellow pajamas that had been provided for him, & Tina put on a set of frilly lilac pajamas that had been provided for her, along with a matching hair-bow). The Flaversham cousins were having so much fun, that they didn't notice the clock striking 10:00 PM! As soon as the last chime of the hour faded away, Hiram came in, now dressed in a set of cream-colored pajamas, a purple terrycloth robe, & matching purple slippers. "Olivia, Arden, Timmy, Tina, it's beddy-bye time!" Hiram told the mouselings in a sing-song voice, as he went over to approach them.
Olivia immediately nodded at Hiram to indicate her understanding, & started helping Arden & Cousin Tina put up all the toys they & Cousin Timmy had been playing with. Timmy, however, pouted & sulked, as he put up a fuss, & whined, "I don't wanna go to bed! It's too early!"
"We all think wee little mouselings should go to bed at this hour, Timmy," Hiram gently insisted, as he took his nephew, & led him over to the bed he would soon be sharing with Tina.
Cousin Timmy just crossed his arms over his chest with defiant stubbornness, haughtily tilting his nose up in the air, as he smarted off, "I don't have to. This is a free country." 
"Timmy..." Hiram said with a stern glare.
Upon receiving the look from his uncle, Cousin Timmy decided that it would just be better to listen to Hiram, & not get in any trouble with him (he was in enough trouble, already!). After giving a sigh of resignation, the boy rolled his eyes, & said, "Oh, OK...OK..." Then, with some reluctance, Cousin Timmy crawled into bed, & cuddled up under the covers; after seeing that his nephew had obeyed his orders, Hiram smiled pleasantly at Timmy, then pat his head, & kissed him on the cheek. (At this point, Cousin Timmy's more macho side kicked in, & he took a moment to wipe the kiss off with his pajama-top sleeve, making a face as he did so.)
Once Olivia, Arden, & Cousin Tina had finished putting up all their toys, Cousin Tina went over to the bed, & crawled under the blankets, making herself comfortable at Cousin Timmy's side. Olivia climbed up the ladder, went over to the top bunk, crawled under the blankets, & made herself comfortable. As for Arden, she kicked off her slippers & did the same thing. But she got to sleep on the bottom bunk. Hiram tucked all children in, then kissed Olivia & Arden on each nose, before heading down the ladder, & walking away to exit the room, as he told his daughters, nephew, & niece, "OK, mouselings, now you all sleep tight. Tomorrow, we're going off to the youth hostel to talk with Mother Caulfield." With that, Hiram turned off the lights, plunging the bedroom into darkness. "Goodnight, Olivia. Goodnight, Arden. Goodnight, Timmy. Goodnight, Tina," the toymaker said, as he left for his own room on the other side of the hall. "Sweet dreams."
"Goodnight, Daddy," Olivia replied.
"Goodnight, Papa," echoed Arden.
"Goodnight, Uncle Hiram," Cousin Timmy responded.
"Goodnight!" Cousin Tina chirped. With that, the Flaversham cousins all lay down, rested their heads on their pillows, & closed their eyes. It didn't take long for the four mouselings to fall asleep, & as Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina slumbered peacefully through the night, the Dream Fairy made sure to bless them with dozens of delightful visions that danced in their sleepy gullivers...  ________________________________________ Monday, August 24, 1897
(CUE MUSIC: "Grey Clouds" by Franz Liszt) The following morning was partly cloudy, with the blue skies often obscured by large puffs of cumulus that were painted in gentle shades of white & gray; occasionally, the sun would peek out through the clouds, only to hide behind them again a few minutes later. The atmospheric conditions provided a somewhat-bleak backdrop to the cityscape of Mouse London, as the Flavershams' car traveled down the streets of the North End. Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina were making their way to the mouse street of Coronation Street (known to us humans as Creighton Road), where Cousin Timmy had been lodging for the last 3 years...& would hopefully continue to lodge, until he was successfully rehabilitated. And with all the behavior & attitude problems that Timmy had been exhibiting lately, that would take a while...
In the back seat of the car, Olivia was sitting by the left window, placing her "right" paw upon its glass surface, as she gazed at the passing scenery with a look of interest & fascination. By the right window, in his spot behind the driver's seat (where Hiram was), Cousin Timmy sat quietly; he wasn't the least bit interested in looking at the world outside. Instead, he was trapped in his own private hell, with a maelstrom of dark, brooding thoughts whirling in his head. Timmy contemplated about the chain of events that had led to his fursonality changes, his supposed "corruption", & his ultimate expulsion from the house where he once lived with his mother (Hiram's sister, Miriam)...He thought about how much he had begun to hate his mother for kicking him out of his home, & not allowing him to come back until he had changed his ways. But hadn't he been taking steps to improve his behavior? Hadn't he been trying to turn over a new leaf? Why wasn't his mother acknowledging his efforts to make himself a better mouse? The only reason Cousin Timmy could think of was that his mother hated him, too...& that was why he was feeling so reluctant to continue with this game anymore. He wanted to give up, & just let himself join the dregs of rodentkind, & not have to deal with all this turmoil...
Suddenly, Cousin Timmy's dismal musings were interrupted when he felt the sensation of the Flavershams' car jerking to a stop. Through the rear window, Timmy could see the familiar orphanages & other buildings that lined either side of Coronation Street...& when he & his relatives had gotten out of the vehicle, he saw the exterior of the place they were intending to visit—the very place he had run away from yesterday. One of Mouse London's more notorious "stand-alone" buildings, it was a tall, imposing structure of Gothic proportions & an impressive stature, towering over the Flavershams' car like a skyscraper; their Mousarati model was microscopic, compared to the size of it! Constructed out of cloudy-gray bricks, the edifice sported big stained-glass windows, & a set of concrete steps led to the oaken double-doors, which were hidden at the back of the alcove that made up the front entrance. Above the aforementioned alcove, there was a large, dark-colored metal sign, engraved with golden text that bore the name of this cold, gloomy, prison-like place: ST. MARY'S YOUTH HOSTEL & DELINQUENT HALL FOR RUNAWAY & WAYWARD CHILDREN ESTABLISHED 1865
Olivia, Arden, Hiram, & Cousin Tina (who, by the way, were all dressed in the respective ensembles of their regular "indoor" outfit & fancy outing clothes) all stared up at the façade of St. Mary's with Cousin Timmy, looking in the direction of the building they would soon be entering. It had once been one of the many orphanages on Coronation Street, but was converted to a youth hostel & juvenile detention center in 1865; for the past 32 years, the nuns & priests who worked at St. Mary's had offered food, clothing, & shelter to those who lived & lodged there, while also providing rehabilitation classes for the less-well-behaved residents...such as Cousin Timmy, for example.
After gazing up at the exterior of St. Mary's for a while, the members of the Flaversham family all looked down at each other in awkward silence...until Hiram gave a small clearing of his throat. "Well, shall we go in?" Hiram asked Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina with a timid smile, as he adjusted his blue outing jacket, & began making his way up the front stairs. Olivia (who was carrying her dancing doll, which she had brought from home), Arden, & Cousin Tina quickly followed after Hiram, but Cousin Timmy still stood outside St. Mary's. For the next several moments, he continued to gaze at the building in fear & awe, intimidated by the ominous presence of the large structure that loomed before him...until Olivia brought him out of his terrifying thoughts with the sound of her voice, as she called out to her cousin, "Timmy...Are you coming in with us?"
Cousin Timmy let out an anxious gulp, as he began making his way towards the entrance of St. Mary's to join his relatives. This is it, he thought nervously. There's no turning back now... ________________________________________ A short time later, Hiram, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina had met up with Mother Caulfield, &, now, the three mice were sitting in small chairs in the private office of the head nun. Hiram was seated like the proper gentlemouse he was, with his paws cupped together (& placed in his lap). With her characteristic cheerfulness, Olivia, Arden, & Cousin Tina all smiled up at Mother Caulfield with Olivia clutching her dancing doll in her arms, & not looking the least bit intimidated by the holy (mouse) woman's presence, even as her shadow loomed over the Flavershams in a foreboding manner. And, as would be expected, Cousin Timmy was not looking very pleased to be here—quite the opposite, actually. Both of his arms were crossed over his chest, as he cast a livid gaze to the floor, his eyebrows furrowed in fury; occasionally, his tail would twitch to & fro in a fit of agitation.
Mother Caulfield stood in front of Cousin Timmy, his sister, & their relatives, &, although she was of average height, she seemed to tower over her seated visitors. Her figure was thin & slender, & gray fur covered her body from head to toe. Her straight dark-gray hair (which was becoming silver in several places) was tied in a bun in the back, & the furry flesh on her face was filled with crow's-feet, creases, wrinkles, & folds—the usual signs of aging. A big white bucktooth could be seen jutting out from her upper lip, a pair of small, pulled-back ears flanked either side of her head. Her slim limbs ended in small paws & feet, the former of which clutched tightly at a wooden ruler that she whacked against the palm of one hand. A small pink nose jutted out from between her sharp bluish-gray eyes, which glared out at the Flaversham family from underneath a furrowed set of angular dark-gray eyebrows, as she told them, "Mr. Flaversham...& dear, sweet, innocent little Olivia...& Arden! How can I ever forget you...let's not foget you, too, Tina! You well-behaved child...it was very noble of you to come forward today. I must say, in all honesty, that I & the other staff members at St. Mary's were worried sick about Timothy..."—Cousin Timmy pouted when he heard his real name being mentioned—"...when we realized that he ran away. Thank you for returning him to our custody."
"It's no problem at all, Mother Caulfield," Hiram replied with a warm smile. "Olivia, Arden, Tina, & I were all-too-happy to bring him back to the proper place where he needs to stay."
"I've no doubt of that," Mother Caulfield said, before turning to face Cousin Timmy with a stern look. Adjusting the golden pince-nez glasses perched upon her nose, Mother Caulfield began, "And Timothy..." 
As the look on his face became angrier, the boy snapped in irritation, "My name's not 'Timothy', it's 'Timmy'!"
"DON'T CORRECT ME AGAIN, FLAVERSHAM!" Mother Caulfield shouted harshly. Then, after she'd taken a moment to compose herself, she continued in a calmer tone-of-voice, "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, you must remember why your mother sent you here. She did it for your own good...Ever since your father was eaten by a cat shortly after you were born, your mother's been too busy with her schoolteaching career to spend extra time with you—time she could have spent giving you moral guidance, teaching you how to live a proper life...But it's not her fault that you ended up the way you did. Neither of you would have had any problems if you had not become friends with that awful squirrel & his troublemaking cronies!"
Cousin Timmy could feel his anger growing by the second. Now, he was beginning to remember the #1 reason why he couldn't stand living at St. Mary's—it was a daily reminder of how much he had screwed up his life. "You think I don't know that?" Cousin Timmy blurted out to Mother Caulfield, his voice once again taking on a smart-alecky tone. "I feel bad enough about meeting Chutzpah already! And I'll admit I did some stupid things...all right, a bunch of stupid things...but Mom didn't need to kick me out of the house! She was so overreacting..."
"I think that a juvenile rap sheet with hundreds of charges for theft, robbery, mugging, vandalism, pollution, the defacing of public & private property, stalking, voyeurism, inappropriate fondling, & underage gambling & drinking would give anyone a perfectly-good reason to 'overreact', as you put it," Mother Caulfield retorted. "And your dreadful behavior only added to the stress that your mother was already feeling from being a single, working mother with a full-time teaching job! She couldn't handle that stress, Timothy, & at some point, she had to do something drastic in order to give you a chance to get back on the right path again, & also to give herself some much-needed peace of mind! And I can't say that I blame her!"
Cousin Timmy's fury was not quelled, however, & this was all-too-noticeable to Mother Caulfield & the others, as he shouted wrathfully, "How can you even defend the woman who abandoned me, cut off her ties to me, & practically disowned me? If I turned out to be such a pain in the tail, then why didn't she have me aborted when she was pregnant with me? It would have spared her a lot of grief if she had just gotten rid of me!"
"Timothy, don't say that," Mother Caulfield said, now looking hurt...& feeling sorry for what Cousin Timmy was going through.
But Timmy ignored the head nun, & continued with his hateful tirade against his mother: "As far as I'm concerned, that old broad never loved me at all!"
"Yes, she did!" Mother Caulfield cried, her features & tone-of-voice wracked with heartfelt care & concern. "That is why you are here now! She wanted to show you what it's like to be a good boy, a boy who takes the straight & narrow path, a boy who does the right thing...& who, may I add, also doesn't go stalking young women in the middle of the night!"
Cousin Timmy just rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Are you finished yet, Mother Caulfield?" he asked, taking on his smart-alecky tone once again.
"NO! I have MUCH more to say to you, young mouse!" Mother Caulfield shouted in reply, as her expression became angry. "You are a child of God, & you must act like one, so..."
By this point, Cousin Timmy could no longer hide behind the mask of macho audacity, & the faux façade he had tried so hard to maintain quickly came crumbling down, as he became overpowered by the emotional tempest that was raging inside of him. "I'm not a child of God!" Cousin Timmy cried in a breaking voice. "I'm not a child of anyone!" Hiram, struck with pity for his nephew, extended a paw to touch Cousin Timmy's shoulder, but the little boy pulled away, turning to glower angrily at his uncle with tears in his eyes. "Leave me alone!" he yelled, before running out of Mother Caulfield's office into the adjoining hallway, sobbing all the while.
(CUE MUSIC: "Song Of India", from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Sadko")
When Hiram, Olivia, Arden, & Cousin Tina had watched Cousin Timmy make his weepy departure, the four mice turned back to face Mother Caulfield with apologetic frowns, as Hiram said sadly, "I'm sorry, Mother Caulfield...I truly am."
"It's not your fault, Mr. Flaversham," the nun replied, now sporting a sympathetic frown. "It's his own fault he ended up in here." But, then, Mother Caulfield's face sported a gentle smile, as she added optimistically, "But fear not...There's still hope for young Timothy, & there is a way we can remedy his situation! You see, Mr. Flaversham, St. Mary's has recently become a sponsor—& affiliate—of the Big Siblings program. By any chance, have you heard of it?"
Hiram thought about it for a few moments, then finally shook his head in negation, as he answered, "Errr...not really..."
"Well, basically, the Big Siblings program works like this," Mother Caulfield explained. "Children like Timothy can enlist in the program, &, upon being accepted, they will either have an older boy or girl assigned to serve as their surrogate sibling & role model, or they may select a candidate of their own choosing. This candidate may either be an older boy or girl, or an adult furson, that they know & trust. Now, if we let Timothy and Tina stay with you & your daughters, & any other kinsmice or acquaintances who might be living or lodging in or near your home, he might learn a few things, & he won't end up back on the streets, in the company of bad rodents like Chutzpah."
"Oh, splendid, Mother Caulfield!" Hiram said, delighted by the news. "As soon as Timmy gets back, I'll tell him about..."
No sooner did Hiram say this, than Cousin Timmy ran back into Mother Caulfield's office. The boy was still crying...but, now, his tears were those of sadness. "I'm sorry, Mother Caulfield!"
Cousin Timmy sobbed tearfully, as he burst through the door, & went over to hug the head nun. "I'm so sorry for being so mean to you, & saying all those awful things! I'm sorry for running away from the youth hostel last night! It's just that..."—he sniffled—"...I'm feeling so upset, because I've done all that bad stuff, & I've been such a bad kid...&, now, my mom & dad don't love me anymore..."
"No, Timothy, they still love you!" Mother Caulfield said gently, trying to comfort Cousin Timmy. "They just don't love the boy you've become..." Timmy sniffled again, & looked up at Mother Caulfield, who continued, "Your uncle & I were just talking about a program that you can enroll in...one that might help you overcome your fursonal troubles. Mr. Flaversham, would you care to explain further on this program?"
Hiram then proceeded to tell Cousin Timmy about the Big Siblings program, & when he finished hearing about it, Timmy became excited. "Oooh, can I join the Big Siblings program, Mother Caulfield?" he asked eagerly. "Please, please, please, please, please, please, please?"
Mother Caulfield couldn't help but chuckle warmly, delighted by Cousin Timmy's newfound enthusiasm. "Why, certainly, Timothy!" she replied with a smile. "I'll sign you up for it right away!"
"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!" Cousin Timmy exclaimed, hugging Mother Caulfield even more tightly. He even took a moment to stoop down, & vigorously kiss the nun's feet, before continuing, "You won't be disappointed this time, Mother Caulfield! I PROMISE!"
"I'm sure you'll keep your word," Mother Caulfield said, still smiling as she reached her paw down to pat Cousin Timmy on the head. "But just in case, Mr. Altoid & I will be checking up on you frequently to see how you're doing. When we decide that your behavior has improved significantly enough, we'll allow you to return home to your mother, if you so choose. In the meantime, however, I think it would probably be better for you to take lodgings with your cousin & uncle, rather than stay here...Would that be all right, Timothy?"
"Sure," Cousin Timmy answered, returning the smile at Mother Caulfield, as he nodded his head in affirmation.
"Very well," said Mother Caulfield. "I'll let you go home with Mr. Flaversham, Olivia, Arden, & Tina—er, I mean, Uncle Hiram, Cousin Olivia, Cousin Arden, & Tina—& I'll tell Mr. Altoid to come see you in a few days." Now filled with renewed hope & optimism, Cousin Timmy leapt to his feet, & went over to join his sister & relatives. "Well, I think that takes care of everything. I hope you continue to do well, everyone, & be careful on your way home," Mother Caulfield told the Flavershams.
"We will, Mother Caulfield," Hiram said pleasantly, as he, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, and Cousin Tina got up out of their chairs. "Thank you for everything." With that, the Flavershams turned to exit Mother Caulfield's office, with Cousin Timmy being the first to leave. The boy dashed through the hallway & out the oaken double-doors, doing a series of back-flips while he sprang merrily out of the building & down the stairs, as he yelped, hooted, & hollered in absolute jubilation! All those nasty, negative emotions he'd once been experiencing had left him, & his soul became filled with a feeling of total ecstasy! He felt happy & carefree, & it was as if nothing in the mouse world could bring him out of his state of bliss!
After Cousin Timmy finally made his way off the bottom stair in an acrobatic somersault, he gleefully started rushing towards the Flavershams' car; Olivia, Arden, Hiram, & Cousin Tina soon followed in the same direction, as Mother Caulfield stepped out onto the porch to bid her visitors "goodbye" with a smile & a wave. Cousin Timmy couldn't help but return the same gestures, as he looked out at the head nun from the rear window of the Flavershams' car, which soon started up, & began driving down Coronation Street on the first leg of the long journey back to Walnut Avenue. Already, Cousin Timmy was looking forward to having lunch with Hiram, Cousin Tina, Arden, & Olivia...& helping them reopen their toy shop during the first few days of his new phase of existence. Life with his relatives was going to be so much better than life at St. Mary's, that was for certain! ________________________________________ (CUE MUSIC: Abridged version of the 1st movement of Ludwig Van Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony") For Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina the next day began with breakfast, but after their morning meal, their usual routines were replaced by a most unusual ritual. After the Flavershams had put away their empty dishes & whatnot, Hiram beckoned for his daughters, nephew, & niece to follow him into the main room of the toy shop, which was only lit by the radiance of the morning sunlight that shone through the front window...but not for long. Hiram reached up to snap on the overhead light that hung over his worktable, & the main room quickly became filled with the garish glow from the lamp's electric bulb, which illuminated all the toys & furniture in a charming chiaroscuro of highlights & shadows. The cobwebs had all been swept away, & the main room was beginning to show signs of its original splendor...but there was a lot more work to be done!
And, so, Hiram began the first step in the lengthy process of preparing for the grand reopening of Flaversham's Toy Shop. Much as he did the other day, he took a broom, & swept up dust from the floors, & when he was done with that, he went on to dust all the shelves & cabinets with a feather duster. Then, Hiram went down the street to a new appliance store, where he purchased one of the first vacuum cleaners; after taking the device home, & plugging its electrical cord into one of the wall-sockets, he used the aforementioned vacuum cleaner to scour the floorboards for anything that his broom didn't pick up. Before too long, the floor & furniture were free of filth & grime, & Hiram could begin the next part of his pre-opening preparations—some good old feng shui...Flaversham style! After rearranging some of the spare furniture, & moving it around to his liking, Hiram decided to call it quits for the day...but, of course, his family's work had only just begun!
The next day began with breakfast, along with the same ritual of snapping on the overhead light, but today's schedule followed a different pattern. Hiram started by unpacking some of the unopened boxes from the earlier move, & unloading his toymaking tools onto his worktable. Then, he proceeded to set up his workspace, putting tools & whatnot in their proper places. After that, Hiram sat down at his table, & began working on a new set of toys, as Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina watched from either side of him with great interest. Before long, the four mouselings became eager to pitch in to help Hiram, & all the Flavershams started working on new batches of toys for their potential customers. This labor continued throughout the duration of the day, & the one that followed after it...until Olivia, Hiram, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina were finished making the new playthings (which they proceeded to put in the display window, & on all the shelves in the main room).
Finally, on the fourth day, Hiram performed the last two steps of the pre-opening process. He took a large piece of wood, & began decorating it with different colors of paint; once the pigment had dried off, Hiram took a ladder, & went outside to hang up the new sign, before scurrying back down to join Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina on the sunny sidewalk of Walnut Avenue. All the Flavershams looked up in a mixture of sheer awe, happiness, & pride at the ornate sign of their new-&-improved toy shop. Then, after a few moments, Hiram tilted his head down to face Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina who looked back up at the toymaker with smiles that he was all-too-eager to return, as he exclaimed, "Well, children, I think we can safely say that Flaversham's Toy Shop is back in business!" With that, the 5 mice looked back up at the sign with broad smiles on their faces, brimming & beaming with heartfelt delight at their accomplishment.
The sign of Flaversham's Toy Shop did, indeed, seem to give a breath of new life to the eponymous establishment. The sign sported a turquoise background, with the name "Flaversham" carefully written on the top part in neat white block-lettering. The word "Toys" was displayed in a large, fancy-looking font, with all 4 letters capitalized, & colored a solid bright-purple. A thick-lined double-border (which was white on the inside, & turquoise on the outside) surrounded the text within. Oh, how beautiful the sign looked to the Flavershams...& how beautiful it would look to the customers that would soon be swarming into the toy shop like bees to a flowery meadow! Olivia, Hiram, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina could hardly wait for their first day of business to begin... ________________________________________ Saturday, August 29, 1897 It didn't take long for word to reach the rest of Mouse London, &, soon, thanks to reports in the city newspapers (& a few magazines), all the micefolk had gotten wind that Hiram Flaversham had returned to the old toy shop on Walnut Avenue. There had been no ceremony or celebration to herald the homecoming of Mouse London's most famous toymaker, or the reopening of his business; instead, there were only quiet announcements in articles of various periodicals...although, in retrospect, Hiram wished that he had made some muss or fuss about the matter. He had been trying to attract customers all morning, but he wasn't having much success. Now, it was noon, & Hiram was beginning to wonder if he would have any luck on his first day... The Scotsmouse was standing outside on the sunlit pavement of Walnut Avenue, walking about, & going up to passersby. Olivia & Cousin Timmy watched the action going on from behind the toy shop's front window, their noses & paws pressed to the glass. Smiling & acting in his usual friendly manner, Hiram approached all the different rodents who came walking in his direction, & addressed them individually, beginning with a fancy-looking gentlemouse. "Good day, sir, how are you? Would you care to buy some toys?" Hiram asked. The gentlemouse ignored him, & walked on, but Hiram didn't give up; he went over to a well-dressed rat lady, & said to her, "Oh, miss, good day to you! By any chance, are you in need of some toys lately?" The rat woman shook her head in negation, & continued on her way. Undaunted, Hiram went over to a young squirrel, & asked him, "Excuse me, sir, but is there anyone you know who might be liking a toy or two for their birthday?" The squirrel just gave a shrug of his shoulders, & he, too, walked on. By this point, Hiram was feeling discouraged. "Awww..." the toymaker moaned to himself, as his face fell, & his ears drooped in disappointment. Shaking his head sorrowfully, he said sotto voce, "I just don't get it! If the toymaking industry is supposed to be booming, why am I not having any luck?" Suddenly, Hiram was brought out of his gloomy reverie when he heard the sound of footsteps. Walking down the street, was a somewhat-short male mouse of middle age, with a frame that bore a stout, portly figure. Covered in tan fur, he had short, straight platinum-blonde hair that was styled so that it curved down along the back of his head & ears, with several bangs hanging down over his brow, & any hair that came out from behind the ears neatly matching the contours of his wide & curvy cheeks. His ears were also large & curvy, & a big white bucktooth could be seen jutting out from his upper lip. A slightly-prominent pink nose jutted out from between his gentle green eyes, which lay beneath a bushy pair of thick, curved eyebrows that matched the flaxen color of his hair. His face was beginning to show some signs of aging (especially around the eyes), but it did not detract from his ultimately-attractive appearance. He was dressed in a smart, stylish manner, with crisp white shirt-sleeves & slimming lavender trousers covering the upper & lower halves of his body; his feet were contained in shiny black shoes, & his head was topped with a green porkpie hat (decorated with a red ribbon-stripe). Over his clothing, he wore a red overcoat with a crimson collar, cuffs, buttons, & pocket-flaps. In his paw, he clutched a wooden walking cane, which he whirled & twirled about in the air, as he continued parading down the pavement, whistling a merry tune. Hiram knew the mouse who was walking in his direction; it was none other than Mr. P.R. Altoid, one of Mouse London's local benefactors (not to mention an occasional worker at St. Mary's, among several other things). Altoid was a good friend of the Flaversham family, & he was also one of the most generous & giving rodents in town! No doubt, he would be willing to provide some patronage to his comrades...& with that prospect in mind, Hiram rushed over to the older gentlemouse, trying vainly to contain his excitement, as he asked him, "Say, Mr. Altoid, by any chance are you needing some toys?" Upon hearing this question, Mr. Altoid shook his head, & replied in his charming, handsome baritone voice, "Oh, no, I'm afraid not, yes?"  But when he took notice of Hiram's falling face, he added, "Well..."—a clearing of the throat—"...not for me, anyway, yes?" A beat of silence passed between the two mice, before Altoid continued, "But as it happens, Mr. Flaversham, there is currently a toy drive for orphan mouselings underway, yes? If I were to purchase some toys from your shop, I would be able to give a little something to those poor angels, which is what they so desperately need in light of their living conditions, yes?" Looking up at Mr. Altoid with a hopeful gaze, Hiram inquired in haltering speech, "You...would really buy stuff...from my shop?" "Consider it a favor for yourself, & for those poor, needy mouselings, yes?" Altoid answered with a warm smile on his face. Hiram was simply delighted with his recent change of luck; he couldn't believe how kind the hands of fate had been to him...& his eyes twinkled even more merrily at the prospect of bringing joy to those who were less fortunate! "Well, a happy heart is better than a full purse, I always say," Hiram said cheerfully, as he beckoned for his friend to follow him into the toy shop. "Come along, Mr. Altoid!" With that, Altoid walked behind Hiram, who turned to make his way towards the entrance of the building. Smiling broadly, Hiram opened the front door, & grandly gestured inside with a bow & outstretched arms. Mr. Altoid couldn't help but return the smile at Hiram, nodding his head in appreciation, as he made his way into the toy shop, with Hiram soon following suit (but not without shutting the door behind him). Upon entering the main room, Mr. Altoid went to take his seat on a wooden stool by the wall. As he planted his walking cane onto the floor, the middle-aged mouse began heaving for breath, exhausted from all the exercise he had taken during his lengthy trip from Coronation Street. As it turned out, the toy drive was not the only reason for his journey to the Flavershams' house; today was his day to check up on Cousin Timmy, & see how he was doing, so he could report back to Mother Caulfield when he visited her at St. Mary's that evening. And faster than you can say "flamdoodle", Olivia & Cousin Timmy scampered over from the window to approach Mr. Altoid. "Hello, Mr. Altoid," Olivia greeted with a sweet smile, as she went over to give the older mouse a big hug. Mr. Altoid pat the mouseling on her head, before picking her up to place her on his lap, as Olivia asked, "How are you doing today?" "Oh, I'm doing quite fine, yes?" Mr. Altoid replied pleasantly, smiling down at Olivia. "Thank you for asking, yes?" As he extended a paw to tousle Olivia's fur-hair, he inquired, "And how have you been, my dear, yes?" "I'm doing pretty fine, too, myself," was Olivia's answer. "Ah, wonderful! Wonderful, yes?" Altoid exclaimed, delighted to hear Olivia's words. Then, he turned his gaze to look down at Cousin Timmy, who faced Mr. Altoid with a nervous smile. Altoid picked up his cane, before pointing the end of it at Cousin Timmy, & gently pushing the tip against his nose in a playful manner, as he said with mock-sternness, "And I sincerely hope...that you've also been doing fine, Timmy, yes?" Cousin Timmy gulped a little, but tried not to act too anxiously in front of his friend, as he replied, "Yes, Mr. Altoid." "Have we been on our best behavior, yes?" Mr. Altoid questioned Cousin Timmy, as the usual friendly smile returned to his features. "Well...there was a little period where I kinda...back-slided," Cousin Timmy answered hesitantly. When Mr. Altoid gave a disapproving frown in response, Timmy immediately changed his tune, hoping to win the older mouse's satisfaction. "But that's OK," he declared, "because I'm right back where I'm supposed to be!" The boy gave a clearing of his throat, before adding in an imitation of Mr. Altoid's trademark saying, "Yes?" As soon as he heard this, Mr. Altoid's frown turned upside-down, & the earlier smile soon returned to his face, as if it had never even left. "Well, I'm very, very proud of you, Timmy, yes?" the now-quite-pleased benefactor complimented, fondly patting Cousin Timmy on the head. Beaming & nearly bursting with joy at the very thought of it, he added, "When you return home to your mother, she's going to be so pleased with how much her son has changed, yes? She'll be happy to have the sweet, loving child she once knew back in her life, yes?" At this point, Cousin Timmy began to brighten, now encouraged by Mr. Altoid's upbeat demeanor & uplifting words. "Yeah," he said optimistically, as a smile began to spread across his own face. "I think you're right, Mr. Altoid!" No sooner did Cousin Timmy say this, than Hiram walked over to Mr. Altoid & the two mouselings. Smiling down at the 3 mice, the toymaker started to remind his guest, "So, about those toys you were hoping to donate to the drive..." "Oh, yes, of course, yes?" Mr. Altoid exclaimed, nodding his head in recognition. With that, Olivia slid down to the floor off of Altoid's lap, & both Flaversham cousins took their pal by either paw, helping him rise to his feet. "Ah, thank you so very much, yes?" Mr. Altoid told Olivia & Timmy gratefully, before holding his cane in his paw, as he went over to Hiram. "Now, then," Altoid asked the Scotsmouse, "why don't we have a look-see at your stock, Mr. Flaversham, yes?" And, so, Hiram & Mr. Altoid walked across the room to a set of shelves that were placed above the wooden cabinets. A wide variety of toys could be seen on these shelves: a dollhouse set, a smiling dolly mouse, a toy airplane, a Rainbow Beach Ball, a set of brilliantly-colored alphabet blocks, a cube puzzle, a big Rainbow Top, a multicolored kite, a set of puppets, a large Rainbow Slinky, a Rainbow Pinwheel, a toy sailboat, a merry-go-round toy, a toy drum, a Rainbow Xylophone, a marionette mouse, a bag of marbles, a jigsaw puzzle, a pail & shovel, a toy soldier, & a mechanical music box. All of the playthings had been painstakingly paw-crafted by Hiram, Olivia, & Cousin Timmy, & nothing but the utmost love & care had gone into their creation. "So, see anything you like, Mr. Altoid?" Hiram asked the benefactor, as he gestured to the toys on the shelves. After hemming & hawing for several moments, Mr. Altoid finally gestured to all the toys with a wave of his cane, as he replied, "Hmmm...they all look like they'll make good donations for the toy drive, yes?" Shaking his head in amusement, as he planted his cane down in front of him, Altoid added, "I simply don't know which ones to choose, yes?" "If you really wanted to donate all those toys on those shelves to the drive...why didn't you just say so?" Hiram asked Mr. Altoid, staring at him in a mixture of puzzlement & pleasant surprise. "I believe I did say so...yes?" Mr. Altoid remarked, turning to face Hiram. (CUE MUSIC: "Notturno", from Leo Delibes' "Coppelia") In any case, Hiram was all-too-happy to take the toys off of the shelves, & place them together on his worktable. After quickly counting the number of toys, & checking the price tags on each of them, Hiram took out a calculator, & used it to determine the amount of money that Altoid would need in order to complete the purchase. As the toymaker took the printed readout from the machine, & looked at it, he said, "According to my calculations, Mr. Altoid...that'll be about...140 pounds, 5 shillings, 4 pence, & 2 guineas." With that, Mr. Altoid reached into his coat pockets, & withdrew 14 10-pound notes, as well as 10 golden pound coins. "There you are," Altoid said amiably, as he handed the money to Hiram. "That should be enough, yes?" Hiram put all the purchased toys into a few sacks, & after handing said sacks to Mr. Altoid, he took a look at the pound notes & coins that had just been given to him...before doing a double-take when he saw that Altoid had added a few pounds more than the actual amount he'd mentioned to his patron. "Mr. Altoid," Hiram remarked in puzzlement, "you gave me a few extra pounds more than you really needed to pay."
"Oh, it's not that important, really, yes?" Altoid replied glibly, as he took the sacks of toys into his arms. "As you always say, Mr. Flaversham, a happy heart is better than a full purse, yes?" Smiling at Hiram once more before he began to exit the building, he added, "Keep the change, yes?"
Hiram couldn't help but burst into a wide grin, astonished & delighted by Mr. Altoid's generosity, as his first customer of the day walked out of the toy shop, & started heading down the pavement of Walnut Avenue, still clutching the sacks of toys he was carrying. As he left, the middle-aged do-gooder turned to smile & wave "goodbye" to a happy-looking Olivia, Arden Hiram, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina, who eagerly returned the genial gestures. You can well imagine how thrilled the Flavershams were feeling after the success of their first business transaction—& that was merely the start of their good fortune! As luck would have it, Mr. Altoid wasn't the only furson who would pay a visit to the family's toy shop...
That evening, at sunset, Hiram, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina had closed up for the night, &, now, they were all seated together at the worktable. With each passing second, the 5 mice were becoming more & more excited, as they counted the total sales amount that they'd received over the day. Already, it seemed that their business was picking up again, for all the toys in the shop had now vanished from the shelves & other display places. "Well, how much do we have, Daddy?" Olivia asked eagerly, bouncing up & down with excitement. "How much do we have?"
"Do we have enough money to keep the toy shop running?" Arden questioned, practically hanging on the edge of her seat.
"Please tell us how much we have, Uncle Hiram!" begged Cousin Timmy.
"Please, Uncle Hiram? Please?" added Cousin Tina.
The Flaversham cousins continued to jabber in their uncontained enthusiasm, until Hiram finally finished counting the money, & (with the help of his calculator) determined the full sum of their revenue. Beaming with joy as he showed Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina the readout from the adding machine, the toymaker replied, "I'd say that 257 pounds, 56 shillings, 27 pence, & 16 guineas ought to keep us going for a while."
Upon hearing the wonderful news, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina all stood up, cheering for the blessings that had been showered upon them, & Hiram was quick to join in the festive mood. "This calls for a celebration!" Hiram said happily, as he got up from his seat. "What do you say we go out for a family night on the town?" Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina all liked the sound of that, & the four mouselings muttered in agreement, nodding their heads up & down. With that, Hiram went to open the shop door, & walked outside, as Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, & Cousin Tina eagerly followed him. They simply couldn't wait to spend time with Hiram on their big-city adventures, as they helped themselves to a delicious dinner, visited all sorts of exciting attractions, & witnessed the wonders of the new technology that was continuing to sweep throughout Mouse London...Tonight was certainly going to be an eventful evening for the Flavershams! ________________________________________ Tuesday, September 22, 1897 The days of August passed, progressing into days of autumn, as September came rolling around in a flurry of fall leaves, blown by the chilly winds that were whistling through the streets of Mouse London. The foliage of the trees in the city's parks & other places was painted in pigments of red, orange, golden, & brown, as the grass turned dull, & the flowers of summer were replaced by their late-season cousins. Yet, as Mother Nature adapted to the changes in her calendar, life in the rodent world continued as normally as it ever had...well, for the last month, anyway. In the West End of Mouse London, things were awfully busy in the large cluster of factory plants at 853 Industrial Square (known to us humans as Golden Square). And that was precisely how Madame Ratburn & Anya wanted things to be, especially on this day—the first-month anniversary of the launch of their experiment...
The Mouse Gypsy psychic & her accomplice were standing on a balcony that gave them a good view of the activity going on inside the main building of their New Technology Factory. Male & female rodents of all ages, races, species, religions, & nationalities were working together side by side, putting aside all prejudices (if they had any) in furtherance of the common goal they all shared—to create new inventions & devices that would improve the lives of their fellow citizens, as well as the lives of all the other rodents of the world. As Madame Ratburn had correctly predicted, the effects of the experiment were, indeed, far-reaching; within just 30 days, the new technology had spread all the way from Europe to North America, & all the other mouse continents were now starting to receive the same benefits. Of course, Anya did say that the process of technological progress would take some time...Great things always did. And, yet, Madame Ratburn simply couldn't wait for the new technology to hit Mouse Asia, South America, Africa, & Australia! She kept thinking about all the wonderful blessings that awaited those rodent civilizations, as she continued to watch the factory workers with Anya for a while longer...until Anya finally turned to her with a smile, & said, "It looks like everything's in good shape, Madame Ratburn! Shall we return to our meeting with Her Majesty?"
"Yes," Madame Ratburn replied, returning the smile at Anya, as she nodded her head. "Let's."
And, so, the saviors of Mouse London turned to leave the balcony, & walked through the double-doors that led into the meeting room, where they conversed & brainstormed with the smartest minds that the miniature city had to offer...Well, that was what the two normally did, anyway. Today, however, their only guest was Queen Mousetoria, who sat in a chair at the far end of a long mahogany table. Dressed in her regular regal attire, with a bit of modest makeup adorning her plump face, she hadn't changed one bit in the two months that had passed since the events of her Diamond Jubilee. The elderly monarch with a grandmotherly appeal watched Madame Ratburn & Anya come back into the meeting room, before joining her at the table once again, as they took their places in seats on either side of her. "So, pray tell, how is the experiment coming along?" Queen Mousetoria asked her gracious hosts. When Anya gave a pleasant report on the progress of the new technology, Her Majesty could barely contain her glee! "Oh, most excellent!" she exclaimed ecstatically, before letting out a happy chuckle, & continuing, "You know, we really ought to schedule a press conference at Buckingham Palace sometime this week! I'm quite sure that my subjects—& the other rodents of the world—would be fascinated to hear the inside story of how you got the idea for this brilliant technology! Why, I'm curious to know all the details, myself!"
"Don't worry, Your Highness," Anya replied warmly. "We'd be more than happy to give you the proverbial scoop! Just give us the date & time, & you've got yourself a deal!"
"Splendid!" Queen Mousetoria cried cheerfully. "I really do hope to see you & Madame Ratburn at the palace! I'll be sure to have reporters for every form of mass media with me!"
"Sounds like a plan, Your Majesty," Madame Ratburn said pleasantly. "We look forward to every moment of the event."
With that, Queen Mousetoria rose from her seat, & exited the meeting room of the New Technology Factory (but not without waving to her hosts, as she bid them "farewell"). Once the Queen had finally departed, Madame Ratburn & Anya turned to face each other with broad smiles.
The results of their experiment had turned out to be far better than either of them had anticipated...& they could only expect them to continue to get better, as time went on. It looked as though Mouse London was, indeed, going to become the beacon of industrial & social progress...just as Madame Ratburn & Anya hoped it would be. ________________________________________  Like their human counterparts, the Mouse Gypsies have their own fursonal code of cleanliness & hygiene that they must follow; it's similar to the Jewish kosher laws or Islamic rules of purity. (If you're interested to learn more about the Gypsies' sanitation regulations—or anything about Gypsies in general—you can find out additional information in the mirror of the Patrin Web Journal at the Geocities archive site.)
 In previous versions of many of my GMD fanfiction stories (including this one), I have described the Month Of Change as having affected technology & society. It did, indeed, have an impact on both things, but steps toward social progress in the mouse world actually began long before the events of my sequel. I will make sure to emphasize or explain this in future chapters of GMD 2, along with any new GMD fanfics or updated versions of old stories I may write in the future. (And, for that matter, I also have plans to write an essay about the changes & developments in different aspects of Mousetorian society in the decades leading up to the time of the original movie & the sequel; this essay, "Overcoming Differences", will be published on my GMD website [linked to my profile page], so keep an eye out for it when it's finished. ;-) )
 Yet another one of the limitations of Madame Ratburn's powers...
 Whenever Jacob DeWalters told his granddaughter stories about his life in Mouse London, he would sometimes tell Anya about Basil's occasional trips to the Mouse Gypsy Caravan to enlist Madame Ratburn's help on cases.
 In the film version of the sequel, Leesha, Gordon, & their four mouselings are the middle daughter, son-in-law, & other grandchildren of Grandma & Grandpa Flaversham, as opposed to their next-door neighbors.
 My personal choice for the dates of the original movie are June 19, 20, & 21 of 1897 (along with the month following the 21st), which are very close to the dates Irene Relda suggested in the first version of her "Dating The Disney Film" essay. As for the date seen on the newspaper at the end of the film...I'd call that a flub on the part of the animators. XD (Or a vision of an alternate universe...Ehh, whatever.)
 As to why Doug doesn't look like any of his siblings...I have no explanation, other than 'Aristocats Syndrome'.
 The song holds additional significance for Olivia, but this will be explained further in Chapter 3.
 Olivia doesn't know it yet, but by this time, the Sherringford School District has changed its name to Basil Of Baker Street School District.
 In addition to my never-ending list of personal projects (fandom-related & otherwise), I now have plans for several GMD 2 tie-in fanfics...one of which features the Flavershams, Basil, & Dr. Dawson, & is set during the events that are supposed to have transpired in the time between the last two scenes of the original movie. Keep an eye out for "The Week After", coming soon from The Mouse Avenger. ;-)
 Since it's illegal for humans to drive on the shoulder of a road, that gives plenty of safe space for rodents to maneuver their own vehicles up & down the streets...unless a human driver gets into a tragic accident, & ends up severely injuring or killing the rodent commuters who cannot dodge out of the way in time. Thankfully, these accidents happen on rare occasions.
 Traditionally, mouse towns & cities have their own names for roads & streets (but will make exceptions, like Baker Street, Montague Street, Fleet Street, Oxford Street, Abbey Road, Piccadilly Street, Paddington Street, etc.). Many of the names for mouse streets will serve symbolic purposes, have something to do with rodents, be derived from rodent-based puns, be named after famous rodent individuals, have something to do with English history / culture, be named after things of a particular type (like birds, trees, or flowers), or otherwise just sound pretty. In any case, the existence of differently-named mouse streets provides just one example of the many ways that the rodent world stands apart from the human world, despite all the similarities & parallels between them.
 I can definitely assure you that that paragraph is the longest one in the entire chapter (it took up a whole page in Word!). But, for your sake, I will do my best to ensure that it is the only paragraph of that length in the entire story. ^^;;
 How many times have we seen that idea used in a GMD fanfic?
 I sincerely wish to thank Mapquest, Wikipedia, & London Online for helping me with research on (Mouse) London landmarks, streets, districts, boroughs, & other things related to the geography of the city.
 Such structures do exist in the mouse world, & in more places than you think. Whenever there's areas of open space available, rodents will erect "stand-alone" buildings (like the "Taste Of America" restaurant, & others that will be mentioned or featured throughout the course of the fanfic). Mysteriously, these buildings manage to stay invisible to humans...yet this only adds to the mystique & magical charm that surrounds the mouse world!
 Does anyone else think of Cookie from "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" when they read that line?
 Thankfully, like the Styrofoam containers we use today, the boxes & cups are free of any CFCs.
 As a matter of fact, the outlets did, indeed, get into the Flavershams' home by magical means. With the help of certain paranormal powers, Madame Ratburn was able to instantly install electrical sockets in designated areas of each room in the toy shop...& the same can be said for every other building in Mouse London. Hence, the ability for all the appliances & whatnot to work.
 Yes, a girl doll...Cousin Timmy's more effeminate characteristics will be alluded to in further depth later on.
 Those of you readers who are Kubrick fans (like myself) will notice several references to his films throughout the sequel, including this one.
 I don't normally like to use Nadsat slang in my GMD fics—unless I'm intentionally making "Clockwork Orange" references (which I won't be doing until later on in the story), or writing from the 'furspective' of one of my Mouse Droog characters...none of whom will be appearing in the fanfic. The only reason I used the word "gulliver" at this particular point in the chapter, is because I already mentioned the word "head"—for which there aren't enough synonyms, unfortunately—& I want to do my best to refrain from redundant repetition, which was one of my biggest writing flaws in earlier versions of GMD 2.
 Mother Caulfield has a fursonal habit of referring to young rodents by their given names.
 I imagine that, in the film version of the sequel, Aubrey Morris (or a very darn good impersonator, should he become unavailable for whatever reason) will provide the voice of Mr. Altoid...& I'm pretty sure that Mr. Morris' vocal range is a baritone (but if I'm wrong, feel free to correct me on that).