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Sunday, November 1, 1897

(CUE MUSIC: "Pavane For A Dead Princess", by Maurice Ravel)

It was another bright, beautiful day in Mouse London, & the Baker Street Family couldn't help but acknowledge this when they woke up this morning. Instead of having breakfast at their house, Basil decided to treat his loved ones to a very special morning meal...so they took the Mousetro tram to the mouse street of Chic Avenue (known to us humans as Jebb Avenue), scenically located in the South End of Mouse London. Within minutes, the Baker Street Family found themselves in the grand dining hall of the Chez Chic, an elegant French restaurant. The place lived up to its name—it had elegant crystal chandeliers, giant glass windows with large fuchsia curtains, marble floors, huge columns & flying buttresses, & tables with mahogany chairs & fancy silk tablecloths. The foods were also very extravagant; the menus boasted such fine items as duck l'orange, escargot, lobster quiche, & strawberry shortcake a la mode (as well as the French's oh-too famous Limburger cheese)—to name just a few of their dishes. Elegant classical music flowed through the restaurant, played by an orchestra stationed at the center of the dining area.

At a very big table, Olivia, Basil, Hiram, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, Fidget, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson (all dressed up for the day in their outing clothes) were seated together, dining on a gourmet breakfast fit for a king. As Basil (seated between Olivia & Hiram) helped himself to a cheese omelet, a pretty mouse lady approached the Baker Street Family's table. The woman was short for a mouse her age, with a slightly-plump, curvaceous figure. She had tan fur (with light-tan markings going all across her muzzle & underbelly) & straight orange-red hair that was graying in a few places (which she kept tied in a bun). Her rounded head had a delicate chin & high cheekbones (which were very wide, & curved at a slight angle). A slightly-prominent pink nose was fixed between her sweet violet eyes with long lashes (topped with thin, angular orange-red eyebrows). A pair of small pink ears flanked either side of her head, & some signs of aging adorned her face. Her short pink tail was of average thickness, & her slim arms & legs ended in small paws & feet. She was dressed in a waitress' outfit, complete with an apron & a name-tag on her blouse-front that said her name: Victoria...

"So, Mr. Holmesington, is there anything else I can get for you or your family?" Victoria asked sweetly, smiling at the Baker Street Family as she stood by their table.

Basil finished the last bite of his cheese omelet, then dabbed at his mouth with a napkin, & turned to face Victoria with a pleasant smile. "Well, if you wouldn't mind, Victoria...I think I could use another cheese omelet," the detective replied. "And, perhaps, the others would like more food, as well."

"All right," Victoria said, nodding her head. The waitress then started walking away from the table, & making her way to the kitchen. "I'll be back shortly with your breakfast," Victoria added while she departed.

As he & the others watched their server leave, Basil stared off after Victoria with a smitten look; it was apparent that he was quite taken by her beauty. Meanwhile, the rest of the Baker Street Family expressed their interest in Victoria through conversation. "I say, Basil, our waitress has provided us with most excellent service for our breakfast today!" Dr. Dawson marveled pleasantly.

"And she looks so beautiful...almost like the Queen herself, when she was a young lassie!" Hiram gushed admiringly.

"Now that you mention it, Hiram, she does look like a familiar face to me..." Mrs. Judson remarked. Stroking her chin thoughtfully, the mousekeeper mused, "Hmm...Victoria...Somehow, it seems as though I've heard that name before..." At this point, Basil's ears perked up, & the detective turned his attention to two well-dressed gentlemice who were seated not too far away from his group, talking with one another over breakfast. As the Baker Street Family silently watched from their table, the debonair duo carried on chatting together. "You know that pretty waitress who works here...what's her name...Victoria?" the first diner asked.

"Yes," the second diner replied, nodding his head. "But what makes you bring her up?"

"Well, have you ever noticed that she looks just like the princess?" inquired the first diner.

"What princess?" the second diner asked, puzzled.

"Princess Victoria, you silly twit!" the first diner answered. "Queen Mousetoria's twin sister!"

"Oh, of course..." the second diner said. "The one who went missing 60 years ago?"

Now filled with deep curiosity, Basil & the others could not help but listen in on the gentlemice's conversation. Meanwhile, the first diner replied, "Yes, the same...And to think that after all these years, Princess Victoria hasn't been found!"

"Well, the princess may be dead, for all we known!" the second diner exclaimed. "Really, how can we tell for certain that she's still 'missing'?"

At this point, Basil & his loved ones turned their attention back to waiting for breakfast, deciding not to eavesdrop any further. Victoria soon came up to bring the Baker Street Family more plates & dishes of food. As she handed our heroes the last of their morning meal, Victoria said pleasantly, "Here you are, everyone. Enjoy your meal." With that, Victoria began walking away from the table...but as she went off to the kitchen, she broke from her cheerful façade, & put her face into her paws, sobbing & crying softly to herself—but not without attempting to dry her eyes with a pawkerchief that had the royal crest on it (a detail that did not escape Basil's notice). Basil & the rest of the Baker Street Family all gazed at the weeping Victoria, watching her with curious & concerned expressions.

"Basil, why is our waitress cryin' all of a sudden?" Hiram inquired inquisitively.

"Oh, Hiram, it's wrong to ask such questions," Dr. Dawson said. "That woman's business is none of our affair."

With a determined look on his face, Basil pushed his breakfast plate aside, & rose to his feet, getting up out of his chair. "Well, I believe it's time we bent the rules a little..." the detective declared.

"What on Earth do you mean, Mr. Basil?" a puzzled Mrs. Judson asked.

"I've got a good feeling in the pit of my gut that our waitress may actually be the missing Princess Victoria," Basil answered.

"What...?" a bewildered Ratigan muttered, not quite sure what Basil was on to.

Basil responded bluntly, "I'll explain later. Come with me, everyone." And, so, the members of the Baker Street Family all got out of their seats, & followed Basil out of the dining area.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen of the Chez Chic, Victoria was washing dishes in the sink. She was still sobbing & looking absolutely miserable. With her violet eyes brimming with tears, Victoria looked down at her reflection in the sudsy sink water...then closed her eyes in melancholy reminiscence. Tears gently rolled down Victoria's cheeks, as she recalled the lamentable, long-ago events that led to her being here...Suddenly, the kitchen door swung open, & the Baker Street Family stepped inside. "You're not fooling anyone, Victoria!" Basil exclaimed. "Not even your waitress' attire can disguise your true identity!"

Upon hearing the detective's voice, Victoria immediately burst out of her sad reverie, nearly dropping the plates she was washing. Turning to glare at the Baker Street Family & its private-eye patriarch, Victoria slammed the dishes down on the counter, & declared defensively, "I have no idea what you're talking about!"

"Victoria, don't you know who I am?" Basil asked, as he walked across the room with his loved ones to approach the woman in question. "I am Basil Of Baker Street, one of the smartest mice in London!"

Victoria tried to go back to washing & scrubbing the dishes with a washrag & a bar of soap, hoping to deter the Baker Street Family from approaching her any further. "Well, you're too smart for your own good!" Victoria said angrily as she went back to her work, trying to ignore the visitors who had reopened the emotional wounds that she thought time had long since healed. "Now, please, leave me alone, before I notify the manager."

"The manager won't do anything about this," Basil stated.

"Then I'll notify the authorities!" Victoria snapped, washing & scrubbing the dishes more vigorously.

Instead of leaving, Basil (along with the others) stayed. He simply would not let the matter alone. "I am the authorities, madam!" Basil declared, determined as ever to get Victoria to listen to him. "And I refuse to budge until you agree to come with me & my family to Baker Street!" Pestered by Basil's persistence, Victoria slammed down the dishes, soap, & washrag in an angry fit, then turned to face the Baker Street Family with a look of fury in her eyes. Then, after a second or two, her once-enraged expression melted into a sad, sorrowful look. With a concerned, compassionate countenance on his face, Basil stepped even closer to Victoria, as his loved ones followed closely behind him. "Victoria...I know who you are, & what has happened to you during your past," Basil said compassionately. "But that's all behind you now! You don't have to work here anymore, & spend the rest of your life in hiding. You can leave this place, & find a new home...a place where you can get good food, clothing, & shelter that's much more adequate than what you have here!" Smiling tenderly, Basil gently extended his paw to Victoria. With her glance darting to & fro, Victoria stared up at Basil, & looked down at his outstretched hand. "Come with us, Victoria," Basil coaxed. "Come with me & my family to Baker Street..."

Victoria kept switching her gaze between Basil & his paw for several seconds, wondering what she should do. Then, finally, the waitress smiled, & took Basil's paw in acceptance of his offer. Still beaming & holding Basil's hand, Victoria stepped over to the detective & his loved ones, & replied resolutely, "I will."

With that, the kitchen door was opened, & Basil, Victoria, & the Baker Street Family all stepped out together, as they started to exit the Chez Chic. Just then, Victoria's boss—none other than the restaurant's manager—came onto the scene. He was absolutely shocked to see Victoria walking away with some of his customers! "Victoria...Where are you going?" the stunned businessmouse asked.

"To Baker Street," Victoria answered, smiling at her boss as she literally untied her apron strings. "It's been an extreme pleasure working at the Chez Chic...but, sadly, after 60 years of servitude under the roof of your restaurant, I'm afraid I must resign from my post. Good day." Victoria then released her apron, which gracefully floated down onto the ground, & after the garment made a gentle landing upon the floor, Victoria & the Baker Street Family continued walking until they had exited the restaurant. Now in the Chez Chic's parking lot, Basil & his loved ones escorted Victoria over to their van. Impressed with the sight of the vehicle, Victoria marveled, "Oh, my goodness, you have a splendid car! Is it new?"

"Well, if you consider a little over three months ago to be new...then, yes," Basil answered. Basil then opened the doors of the van, & he, Victoria, & the Baker Street Family all went inside. The rodents took their usual positions, with Victoria seated with the Baker Street Kids in the back. When everyone was buckled up, Basil turned on the ignition, & took the wheel in his paws. The van subsequently started up, then backed out of its parking space, & drove out of the lot.

When our heroes & their new friend finally arrived back at Basil's house, they opened the front door, & stepped into the antechamber leading to the living room. "Well, Victoria, here we are!" Basil exclaimed cheerfully. "Now, why don't you take a moment to get settled in?"

(CUE MUSIC: "Romance In F Major For Violin & Orchestra", by Antonin Dvorak)

Victoria & the Baker Street Family made their way down into the living room. Upon entering the area, Victoria made herself comfortable in one of the living room's armchairs, as the Baker Street Family went in to sit down with her in the other chairs, sofas, & chaise lounges. Once everyone else had been seated, Mrs. Judson walked over to Victoria, & asked, "So, Victoria, how would you like some breakfast? You must be starving!"

"Indeed, I am starving!" Victoria replied, nodding her head vigorously.

"I'll come around with some food for you in just a few moments!" Mrs. Judson said. "Be right back, dearie!" With that, Mrs. Judson scuttled off to the kitchen. When she was gone, Victoria turned to face the rest of the Baker Street Family with a warm smile, happy to know that she had made so many new friends today. Soon afterwards, Mrs. Judson came back into the living room, holding plates of piping-hot breakfast, which she handed to Victoria.

"Thank you, Mrs. Judson!" Victoria exclaimed, smiling broadly as she took the dishes of food from the mousekeeper. Victoria then dug into her meal ravenously, famished & starving. As the Baker Street Family watched Victoria eat, they were absolutely stunned by how hungry she was! When she finally finished her meal, Victoria looked at a cup of herbal tea that Mrs. Judson held out for her in her paw.

"How 'bout you have some nice, hot tea to wash it all down, dear?" Mrs. Judson asked.

Victoria took the cup of tea from Mrs. Judson, & drank it all down in one big gulp. When she swallowed the last drop down her throat, Victoria wiped her mouth with her sleeve, then placed the teacup down on a nearby table. Mrs. Judson then sat down with the Baker Street Family, & Victoria turned to face them. "I suppose you're all wondering why I look so much like Queen Mousetoria...& why I share her name, right?" Victoria asked. The members of the Baker Street Family all nodded their heads in unison, & Victoria continued, "Well...as it happens...I am Queen Mousetoria's twin sister...the Princess Victoria." When they heard this, the Baker Street Family looked positively shocked, except for Basil, who gave a small "I knew it" look. "It's a long story, really," Victoria said. "A very, very long story..." [1]

"We'd love to hear it," Dr. Dawson said genially.

"All right," Victoria replied, before clearing her throat softly. Smiling at the recollection, she said with a wistful longing in her voice, "I remember my old life like it was yesterday. As long as I live, I'll always recall those first 15 years of my existence, growing up in Buckingham Palace with my parents & sister...Ah, my dear Mousetoria! Being twins, Mousie & I were extremely close, but to the point where we were more than mere siblings—we were best friends.

"During the royal studies, when we were supposed to be doing our work, we would often goof off instead! Sometimes, we'd also pass notes to each other during lessons. Once, Mousie sent me a letter that said, 'Mr. Micawber has funny four-eyes', & when our teacher made us give the note to him, he nearly fainted when he saw my drawing of him wearing foolish glasses! We couldn't stop laughing, even when he swacked our hands with his ruler! Mousie & I loved to play tricks on everyone, especially the servants. One time, we put a worm in Mother's teacup, & she nearly threw up...I still laugh just thinking about it! But between me & Mousetoria, I was definitely the more mischievous of the two—I was the royal scamp who was always getting in & out of trouble! But whenever Mousie & I were making 'mousechief', it was all in good fun, & there were never any harmful intentions involved.

"Mousetoria & I also loved playing together whenever & however we could! We had all sorts of toys, games, & other amusements to keep us entertained all day long...& whenever we should grow tired of playing in our room, we would have fun in other places, too! One of our many favorite pastimes was playing 'hide & seek' in the palace halls...I was often the first to find her. We also loved taking care of our pet dragonfly, Dash, & tending to the royal gardens. Occasionally, when Mousie & I were outside, we would find a sick or wounded animal, & nurse it back to health. Mousetoria & I also loved music, & anything having to do with it. Sometimes, we would even come to accompany our mother, Queen Mother Catherine, when she played the piano. If only Madame Ratburn & Anya had built a time machine, so I could go back & relive all those wonderful moments..." [2] As her voice began to trail off, Victoria's face fell, & she held back a tear; the difficult part of her story was about to begin. She continued, "There's only thing about my childhood that I'd like to forget...& that is my father, King Edward."

"Why is that, if you don't mind me asking?" Ratigan asked.

Victoria replied, "My parents had totally different attitudes when it came to their children. Mother loved & doted on me just as much as she did Mousetoria, but Father...Well, Father absolutely adored Mousetoria, but hated my guts! From the moment I came into the world, Father never spared one kind thought, word, or deed for me. Perhaps, though, our relationship would have been a lot more amicable if Father wasn't so mentally unstable. [3] As you may recall, King Edward suffered from severe paranoia for much of his life, & his condition only seemed to get worse when Mousetoria & I were born. It was precisely because of these irrational fears plaguing his mind, that he came to dislike me so much. The one thing about me that bothered him above all others, was the very fact that I was a twin. Father was constantly worried about me 'taking my sister's place as rightful queen of Mouse England', & even when everyone else around him tried to assure him that those fears were unjustified, he just could never shake those suspicions. The power that paranoia held over my father, was very potent indeed...But as bad as my relationship with King Edward was, I never would have imagined that he would do anything so drastic as what he did on that cold, rainy day in 1837..."

"What happened, Victoria?" Olivia inquired.

Getting increasingly upset, Victoria's voice began to break as she continued, "Shortly after Mousetoria & I had turned 15, my sister was about to be crowned queen. One of the other millions of things that we loved to do was to imitate each other in silly games. Unfortunately, I happened to take this on a much larger scale. And I was about to lose the game miserably...That day, Mother & Father were having a rehearsal in order to prepare for Mousetoria's upcoming coronation ceremony. When it was time for Mousie to recite her royal speech & oath, I suddenly got the urge to play an imitation game with her, & I ended up copying her every word & gesture. By the time I finished saying the oath, Father had had enough! You couldn't imagine how angry he was..."

The Baker Street Family was now becoming even more astonished by the twists & turns of Victoria's tale! They simply had to hear more. "Do go on, my dear," Dr. Dawson said gently.

And, so, Victoria continued with her story: "Father stomped over to me, & grabbed me by the paw, pulling me up into the air. Oh, God, the look of rage that was on his face at that moment...I'll never forget it for as long as I live! 'What did you say?!' Father screamed at me. 'Tell me! Tell me right now what you just said earlier! Every last word of it!' I was scared to death of what Father might do to me, but I didn't want to make him angry, so I recited the coronation speech & oath all over again. All the while, I was shaking & sobbing, hoping that Father would have mercy on me. But, alas, not even my tears or prayers could save me. To Father, what I had done was the highest form of treason, the ultimate betrayal of the royal family! He was not going to let me get away with it, no matter how much Mother, Mousetoria, or the servants pleaded & protested! And, so, Father banished me from the palace, & told me I was never to return. I never saw Mousetoria again..."

The tears almost came again, but this time, Victoria held them back. Meanwhile, the Baker Street Family continued to be touched by Victoria's story. Some of them even had tears forming in their eyes.

"Oh, you poor lass!" Hiram said sympathetically.

Drying her misty eyes with her sleeve, Victoria finished her troubling tale: "I lived on the streets of Mouse London for the next few months or so, traveling from the West End to the South End. That was where I was picked up by the manager of the Chez Chic, who offered me to work in his restaurant as a busgirl. Eager to find a safe place to stay & desperate for a job, I accepted his offer...Eventually, after several weeks of persistence & hard work, I was able to move up to the level of a waitress...And that was the job I held for the next 60 years of my life...up until today..." As her voice started breaking, Victoria added tearfully, "But during my years at the Chez Chic, I never forgot about the life I lived at Buckingham Palace...who I really was, & what had happened to me...who my family was...how much they missed me...how they came to think I was dead!"

The Baker Street Family gasped in shock upon hearing this. "Dead?" Dr. Dawson blurted, placing a paw on his chest. "My word..."

"Good heavens!" Mrs. Judson cried, clasping her paws to the sides of her face.

"Och, how terrible!" Hiram lamented, removing his bowler cap from his head, & frowning sadly as he placed it on his chest.

"That's so sad." Cousin Samantha sniffled, as she wiped a tear from her right eye.

"That reminds me of how our mother died 2 years ago after I ran away from home." added Arden.

"But what makes you suppose that the royal family thinks you're dead?" a flabbergasted Basil asked.

"Why wouldn't they, after not hearing from me for 60 years?" Victoria replied sadly, as silent tears rolled down her cheeks. "After all, it's not easy to survive on the streets for a few years, let alone a few days. And in that kind of environment, anything can happen! You could get eaten by a cat, or run over by a carriage, or murdered by criminals! And it's not just that..." (Her voice broke a little at this point.) "After Father banished me from Buckingham Palace, he not only cut me completely out of his life, but even went so far as to publicly declare me dead to the rest of the world! He even held a fake funeral service, attended by thousands of commoners! Naturally, it was closed-casket. After the funeral, King Edward did everything in his power to make sure that all mentions or traces of me anywhere were swept under the rug, so that no one would remember or know about me." (A pause, as Victoria took a moment to dry her tears with her paw.) "Had I not been afraid of any repercussions, I would have given Mousetoria & the others a sign that I was still alive...but it's far too late for that now, I fear." Gradually starting to lose her composure, Victoria exclaimed sorrowfully, "In a matter of months, my sister will be celebrating the 61st anniversary of my disappearance...but she thinks it's the 61st anniversary of my death!"

At this point, Victoria burst into tears again, & started sobbing into her paws. The Baker Street Family continued to stare at Victoria with a mixture of emotions—awe, astonishment, compassion, pity, sympathy, sorrow, sadness, distress, heartfelt anger...anger that the hands of fate could allow such terrible tragedies to afflict Victoria & her family...& all of Mouse London, as well. Finally, after several seconds, Basil's face formed a calm expression, & the detective got up out of his chair to walk over to the crying Victoria. Now standing at Victoria's side, Basil placed his paw on the woman's shoulder in a reassuring manner, smiling down at her. "Don't worry, Victoria," Basil said comfortingly. "It's not too late to fix this. We can still tell the royal family that Queen Mousetoria's long-lost sister has been found alive & well!"

"But will they believe you?" Victoria asked, looking up at Basil with tears in her eyes.

"Of course, they will!" Basil replied confidently. Even as she sniffled, Victoria felt her spirits gradually soaring as she listened to the Great Mouse Detective speak. With utmost sincerity, Basil vowed, "Victoria, I solemnly swear to you that we will find the royal family, let them know that you're still alive, & ensure that your sister & other loved ones are spared from any further heartache!"

"You'll really do that...for me?" an astonished Victoria questioned.

"I give you my honest word," Basil promised. As she smiled through the last of her tears, Victoria—sincerely grateful to Basil—couldn't resist wrapping her arms around the detective in a warm, fierce hug. Basil was a little shocked at first when he felt Victoria embracing him...but, then, he smiled, & gently returned the hug, as he patted her back in an assuring manner.

Meanwhile, in her bedchambers at Buckingham Palace, Queen Mousetoria was sitting at her vanity, sniffling & sobbing uncontrollably into the tissues she took out of the box on her table. Josie & Jenny, flanking Queen Mousetoria as usual, tended to Her Majesty, & tried to offer her some small crumbs of comfort. It was the most the ladies-in-waiting could do, given how despondent their employer was feeling today. "There, there, Your Majesty!" Josie cooed compassionately, trying to console Queen Mousetoria. "It's all right!"

"Why don't we take a moment to calm down?" Jenny asked gently.

Queen Mousetoria subsequently blew her nose into her tissue, then handed it to Josie for her to dispose of in a nearby wastepaper basket. Jenny then took out another tissue from the box on the vanity table, before offering it to Queen Mousetoria. The miserable monarch gently took the hankie, & dabbed at her moist, teary eyes with it, as she tried to control her sobbing. She only managed to control it well enough so that she could talk clearly. "Oh, I can't believe it!" Mousetoria cried sadly, speaking in a broken voice. "It's been 60 years since my sister was banished from Buckingham Palace..." The Queen sniffled, then quickly started to lose her composure as she said sorrowfully, "And in five months...it will soon...be the day..."—her lip quivered, as tears sprang to her eyes once more—"...of the anniversary...The 61st anniversary of my sweet Victoria's death!" Unable to contain herself any longer, Queen Mousetoria started sobbing into her hankie again. "Oh, boo-hoo-hoo!" the monarch wailed miserably.

Josie & Jenny patted Queen Mousetoria on the shoulders comfortingly. "I weep for you, Your Majesty," Josie said sadly. "I deeply empathize."

"Yes, yes, as do I, Queen Mousetoria," Jenny assented, nodding in agreement with her sister.

Queen Mousetoria tried to control her sobbing again, then looked up at her handmaidens with a mournful frown. "Could you girls...please take me...to the royal nursery?" the Queen whispered woefully. "I wish to look at the room where my sister & I spent so much time together..."

Josie & Jenny gazed somberly at Queen Mousetoria, feeling for their mousetress' plight. "Certainly, Your Majesty," Josie replied obediently. Both of the Richardson girls offered their paws to Queen Mousetoria, who took those hands into her own as she followed them out of the bedchambers. Josie & Jenny then escorted Queen Mousetoria through the palace hallways, until they finally reached the entrance to the royal nursery. "Here we are, Your Majesty," Jenny said.

Josie & Jenny then opened the door for Queen Mousetoria, who stepped closer to look inside the room where she & her sister played, talked, relaxed, & slept together as mouselings. When Mousetoria saw the royal nursery, she felt her heart sink even more, for the room had been kept exactly the same as it was on the day when Victoria left. Toys, dolls, stuffed animals, games, & other playthings were everywhere. Portraits of Mousetoria, Victoria, & their parents adorned the walls, along with paintings & pictures done by the princesses themselves. The aforementioned walls were decorated with paint in pastel pink, & the rose-colored carpet was made of fine Oriental wool. A canopy bed stood in the middle of the room, its silk curtains pulled open to reveal the disheveled blankets, sheets, & pillows covering the mattress. Lace curtains flanked the large square window that let in the sunlight & moonshine every day. A grand piano stood in one corner, with sheet music still resting on its stand. An armoire in another corner still had all the princesses' favorite clothes inside it, & the adjacent vanity table did not have one item of makeup, perfume, or other cosmetics removed from its surface. Even the special necklace Victoria loved to wear, was still looped around its wooden support stand...

That necklace was a special birthday gift given to the royal family by a kindly Gypsy mouse, Queen Mousetoria remembered. It contained a most-remarkable artifact that many fursons knew only through legends, yet turned out to be as real as anything in this world—the Philosopher's Stone! In addition to its alchemical properties, the Philosopher's Stone is also able to extend one's life, useful for rejuvenation & for achieving immortality. [4] Our tutors didn't believe that such a thing could ever exist, but my sister, parents, & I knew the truth! I wonder if one can still feel the necklace's magic after all these years...Oh, if only my sister had taken it with her on the day she left! Then, perhaps, she would still be alive! My beloved Victoria...Oh, how I miss you! Now overcome by an overwhelming ocean of memories of life with her only sister, Queen Mousetoria suddenly burst into tears, sobbing hysterically as she sank to the floor of the royal nursery. Josie & Jenny immediately rushed over to Her Majesty, knelt down beside her, & tried to comfort her again. However, the handmaidens' attempts to console Queen Mousetoria were in vain.

A couple of hours later, Victoria & the Baker Street Family were still seated together in the living room...but, now, they were much closer to one another than they'd ever been before—literally & figuratively. The rodents had spent the rest of their morning chatting & conversing about all sorts of topics, & getting to know each other more fursonally. At one point, Basil went outside to check the mail, before coming back into the living room to approach his loved ones & their new friend. Smiling at his lady visitor, Basil said, "Victoria, I'm going upstairs to the third floor to get the guest bedroom ready for you. I should have it done by this evening, if not sooner."

Victoria smiled at Basil, as tears filled her eyes again—but this time, they were tears of happiness. Overcome with emotion, Victoria declared, "Thank you, Basil...Thank you so much for your kindness towards me..." Then, to the rest of the Baker Street Family, Victoria added, "And thanks to all of you, as well. I don't know how I can possibly repay you..." When Victoria started to sniffle & cry a little, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, & Fidget all went over to the older woman, with the Flaversham cousins hopping up to sit on either one of her knees.

"Aw, don't cry, Victoria!" Olivia said with a smile.

Arden had an idea. "I know what'll cheer you up!" she said.

Fidget gave a little wink of his eye, then handed Cousin Tina a squirting flower. She offered the toy to Cousin Timmy, who smiled upon seeing it being presented to him. "For me? Thanks, sis!" Cousin Timmy exclaimed, delighted with the gift. The boy took the squirting flower into his paws...& it gushed a big spray of water into his face, causing his fur, ears, & hat to be soaking wet. Cousin Timmy glowered irritatedly at Cousin Tina, who smiled innocently, & acted as though she did nothing wrong.

Upon seeing the whole silly spectacle, Victoria started to giggle. She attempted to stifle her laughter at first, but her efforts to do so were worthless. Soon, Victoria, Olivia, Cousin Timmy, & Fidget were all laughing & giggling with one another. After the laughter subsided, an exhilarated Victoria wiped a tear from her eye, & exclaimed exuberantly, "Oh...goodness gracious! You children do such a splendid job at cheering rodents up when they're feeling down!"

"Ah, et cela est pourquoi nous vivons, mademoiselle!" Cousin Timmy commented in French. [5]

Now absolutely smitten with Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, & Fidget, Victoria gabbed genially, "I do wish that there were more rodentlings in the world as talented &...clever...& caring, & sweet, & sincere, & lovable as you three!" Bringing the children all in for a big hug, Victoria added amiably, "Really, you're all just positively wonderful!" Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, & Fidget fawned & gushed, flattered by Victoria's praise. The youths had a feeling that they & the former princess were going to get along just fine!

Shortly before noon, Dr. Dawson escorted Victoria to his bedroom / home infirmary / medical ward (located on the second floor of the Baker Street Family's house). Dr. Dawson's bedroom / office / infirmary was neat & immaculate, unlike Basil's cluttered working space across the hall. The walls & floor were painted a blinding shade of white, & three large fluorescent lights adorned the ceiling. Small cots, medical equipment, hospital devices, & various collections of pills, bottles, serums, vitamins, & healing herbs bedecked the whole room. A regular bed (which Dr. Dawson slept in) & a patient's bench were both on the west wall, separated from one another by the door that led into the room. Once Victoria & Dr. Dawson entered the chamber, the former stripped down to her undergarments—a sleeveless pale-pink bodice, a light-pink linen petticoat with lace trimmings, & a pair of pale-pink bloomers—before taking her seat on the patient's bench. Dr. Dawson then proceeded to give Victoria a full medical checkup.

First, Dr. Dawson used a stethoscope to listen to Victoria's heartbeat. As he did, he noted aloud, "Hmmm...heart rate normal...No murmurs or any signs of malfunctioning..." Once he was sure that all cardiac conditions were nonexistent, Dr. Dawson put up the stethoscope, then took out a small pen-light to look at Victoria's ears. "Now, let us check your ears, dear," Dr. Dawson said, before beginning his inspection with the right ear. "Hmm...No excess wax buildup...No sign of infection...Eardrum is intact..." Checking the left ear, Dr. Dawson determined, "Errr...there's a bit of excess wax in your ear on the left side...But nothing we can't fix easily." With that, the medical mouse took out a Q-tip, & cleaned Victoria's ear with it. When he was finished with that task, Dawson removed the Q-tip, & exclaimed, "There we go! All done!"

Dr. Dawson then reached into his black bag for a tongue depressor, & asked as he withdrew the wooden stick, "Now, Victoria, can you open real wide for me?" Victoria opened her mouth as wide as she could, & Dr. Dawson inspected the inside of said mouth with the tongue depressor & pen-light. Checking around Victoria's oral orifice, the doctor said, "Hmm...Tonsils don't appear to be swollen...Teeth look clean...I'd say your mouth seems to be doing pretty fine, overall." Dr. Dawson then gently applied pressure to Victoria's tongue with the wooden depressor. "Tongue looks fine, too," Dawson remarked.

Upon finishing his mouth inspection, Dr. Dawson tossed the tongue depressor into a small wastepaper basket at the foot of the patient's bench, then used his pen-light to inspect Victoria's eyes. As he checked Victoria's violet orbs for anything amiss, Dr. Dawson declared, "Eyesight is perfect...No cataracts or signs of vision loss..." With that, Dr. Dawson turned off his pen-light, & put it back into his black medical bag, along with his other tools & instruments. "Well, Victoria," Dawson concluded, "aside from the malnutrition & hunger that have afflicted you during much of your life, & were exacerbated by your inability to afford food most days, due to little pay at your old job...I determine that you are otherwise fine, & not to worry—your current issues can easily be corrected..."

"Lunchtime, everyone!" Mrs. Judson called from downstairs.

"...starting immediately!" Dr. Dawson added, turning to smile at Victoria. The former surgeon & soldier then handed Victoria her waitress' outfit, which she put on over her fancy undergarments. After she put on her shoes, Victoria smiled, & took Dr. Dawson by the paw, scooting off of the patient's bench to land upon the floor, & letting the kindly doctor lead her out of the room. Dr. Dawson & Victoria then made their way downstairs into the dining room, where Olivia, Basil, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, & Fidget were sitting at the table, getting ready to eat lunch.

Dr. Dawson & Victoria joined the others at the aforementioned table, & prepared for their meal. At this point, Mrs. Judson opened the kitchen door, & walked into the dining room, handing Victoria & the Baker Street Family plenty of delicious food. "Here's your lunch, everyone!" Mrs. Judson chirped cheerfully, as she passed around each platter of provisions. "Enjoy!"

When Mrs. Judson handed Victoria her meal, Victoria was almost drooling at the sight of the wonderful food on her plates & dishes. "My goodness...a banquet fit for a starving princess!" the ecstatic ex-noble exclaimed. Victoria then turned to smile at Mrs. Judson, as she praised the mousekeeper in utmost gratitude, "Thank you so very much, Mrs. Judson! You're a saint!" With that, Victoria tucked into her food heartily, unable to control her ravenous hunger. For the longest time, Victoria had never had the pleasure of dining upon a scrumptious meal, but she could now enjoy that satisfying sensation once more...& it was all thanks to her new friends on Baker Street! I'm so glad to have met Basil & his family, Victoria thought. Heaven knows where I'd be without them!

After lunch was over, the Baker Street Kids invited Victoria to come play with them in Olivia's mega-playroom, & Victoria was glad to accept the rodentlings' offer. Soon, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, Fidget, & Victoria were all playing together, & having a grand, gay old time with one another! At one point, Olivia & the other children decided to play a game of "Fox & Chickens", & appointed Victoria to be the "fox" who would chase them. Once the game began, Victoria was in hot pursuit of the Baker Street Kids, & the eight rodents all giggled & laughed cheerfully as they chased one another about. "I'm gonna get you!" Victoria said mischievously. "You better run fast!"

"Fair lady, my feet doth soar with the swift speed & agility of the winged shoes of Mercury!" Ratigan retorted playfully.

"Well, Hermes isn't going to help you out of this one, pal!" Victoria replied with a smug smirk. "I have you now!"

"Guess again, Victoria!" Fidget cried, before flying up to the top of the playroom, & hiding himself from view.

Meanwhile, Victoria kept chasing Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, & Ratigan. After the chase continued for several more moments, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, & Ratigan swerved to dodge out of the way as Victoria gained up on her "prey"...& finally managed to catch Olivia & Cousin Samantha by their tails. Victoria brought both mouselings up into the air while holding onto their aforementioned tails, & all three of them giggled playfully. Standing not too far away from Victoria & the Flaversham cousins, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, & Ratigan smiled warmly at the trio while they witnessed the adorable sight of them interacting so pleasantly together...before suddenly sporting five looks of puzzlement on their faces as a thought occurred to them. "Where in the deuce is Fidget?" Ratigan asked.

"Yes, where is he?" Arden asked, putting her paws on her hips & raising a questioning eyebrow in wonder.

"I don't know," Cousin Tina said, shrugging her shoulders.

"I guess he decided to stop playing with us." said Cousin Ursula.

"Nah, he couldn't have." Cousin Samantha said, waving it off.

"Let's go find him." said Cousin Timmy. He & the other rodentlings looked around left & right for Ratigan's batty brother-figure, wondering where they could be.

Soon, Victoria, Olivia, & Cousin Samantha were brought out of their state of mirthful merriment when they heard a familiar voice shouting triumphantly, "WAAAAHOOOOOO! YAAAAHOOOOOO!" Victoria & the Flaversham cousins all looked up to see a dark shadow looming over them. Fidget was sitting atop a large disco ball attached to the mega-playroom's ceiling, which broke off. Fidget took off his black cap, & waved it around wildly in the air as he rode the disco ball, which began making a rapid descent towards the ground. All the while, he cried joyfully, "WAAAHHOOOOO! WAAAAAHHHHHOOOOOOO!" While Fidget continued to cheer & wave his hat around in ecstatic rodeo style, Fidget's ride picked up speed as the disco ball fell closer & closer towards a rainbow-striped toy in Olivia's pool that looked eerily similar to a target pad. Then, finally, the disco ball made contact with the toy...& upon impact, the water in Olivia's pool went flying everywhere in a massive explosion! [6] By the time said explosion was over, everything in the mega-playroom was soaking wet—including Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, Victoria, & Ratigan! The pool was now nearly empty, but Fidget, the disco ball, & all the pool toys were resting on the very bottom. Sitting up on his bum, Fidget looked up with a sheepish, toothy smile as he tittered bashfully, & placed his soggy, damp cap back on his head. Hopefully, he wouldn't get in too much trouble for this little mishap...

A couple of hours later, Victoria & the Flaversham cousins were in Hiram's bedroom / home workshop. Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina stood at Victoria's feet, as Olivia, Arden, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, & Victoria watched over the mouselings from their standing position behind them, with concerned looks on their faces. Both of Olivia's older cousins, with their arms akimbo, were confronting one another nose-to-nose, in the middle of a heated argument. "No, Timmy!" Tina told her brother firmly. "I'm not filling up the pool water by myself! I need you to help me with the hose!"

"Hey, I covered for you by cleaning up all your stuff, drying off everything, & fixing your playroom 'till it was back to the way it was before Mr. Strange-Bat made a mess!" Cousin Timmy retorted irritatedly. In a huff, Timmy pivoted around sharply, & started walking away from Tina.

Cousin Tina scampered after Cousin Timmy, desperately trying to plead with him. "Please, Timmy, just help me out one last time!" an exasperated Cousin Tina begged, as she chased after her twin brother.

"Forget it!" Cousin Timmy replied, crossing his arms over his chest, & tilting his nose up in the air.

"Pleeeease?" Cousin Tina asked.

"Appy-polly-loggies, sis, but that's a definite no, non, nein, nyet, & big, fat negatory!" Cousin Timmy answered stubbornly, shaking his head.

When she got this disappointing response, Cousin Tina pouted & sulked, sporting a grumpy frown as she turned around to face in the opposite direction, away from Cousin Timmy. Victoria thought for a moment as Olivia, Arden, Cousin Ursula, & Cousin Samantha watched on, wondering how Victoria might be able to settle the issue.

"What are we going to do?" asked Olivia.

"We can't just let them fight forever." Arden added.

"How are we going to sort this out, anyway?" Cousin Ursula asked Victoria.

"If they carry on arguing like that, we won't play with them anymore." a disappointed Cousin Samantha sighed, shaking her head.

Then, Victoria bent down between the Flaversham twins, bringing the two mouselings closer together with gentle pushes of her paws on their heads as she said, "Why don't you both refill the swimming pool for Olivia...together? You'll get it done more quickly."

Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina paused to consider Victoria's suggestion. Finally, Timmy shrugged his shoulders, & decided, "I guess we can give it a try." Taking Tina by the paw, & leading her back to the mega-playroom, Cousin Timmy said, "C'mon, sis."

Victoria watched the Flaversham twins exit, then stood back upright. At this point, Hiram entered the bedroom / workshop, now dressed in his toymaking outfit. Hiram sat down at his workbench, then smiled when he turned to see Victoria standing a few feet away from him. "Oh! Hello, Victoria," Hiram greeted genially.

Victoria turned to face Hiram, & returned the smile at him. "Hello, Mr. Flaversham," Victoria responded amiably.

"Hello, Daddy," Olivia & Arden smiled warmly.

"Hi, Uncle Hiram," Cousin Ursula & Cousin Samantha said with toothy grins.

(CUE MUSIC: "Meditation", from Jules Massenet's "Thais")

Olivia, Arden, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, & Victoria went over to Hiram, sitting beside him at his workbench. At the table, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, & Victoria watched the Scotsmouse getting out his tools, & preparing to work on a new batch of toys. "You're a craftsmouse, aren't you, Mr. Flaversham?" Victoria asked, pointing to Hiram's tools.

"Well, if you're interested in the specifics, ma'am, I'm a toymaker," Hiram answered.

Hiram then began working on building the new set of toys, as Victoria watched with interest. "My goodness...you perform your job so well!" Victoria complimented.

"Thank you," Hiram replied, smiling.

"Where did you learn to make toys like that?" Victoria inquired.

"I learned everything I know from the mouseter...my dad, Malcolm," Hiram responded.

A beat of silence passed, & then, as Olivia, Arden, Cousin Ursula, & Cousin Samantha, listened to the conversation, Victoria questioned, "Where did you grow up, Hiram?"

"On my family's farm in the countryside of Scotland," Hiram said.

"I've never been to Scotland," Victoria admitted. "What's it like?"

"Oh, it's a beautiful place!" Olivia exclaimed exuberantly. "You really ought to travel up there sometime."

"That would be a fantastic idea!" Victoria declared in delight. After a pause, she continued on with her intimate interview: "So, who did you live with in Scotland? Did you have any brothers or sisters in your family?"

"Well, I'm the youngest of three siblings. I have an older sister, Miriam, & an older brother, Nathaniel," Hiram answered. "After Miriam, Nathaniel, & I got old enough, we both moved to London to seek our fortunes. Nathaniel married a kind schoolteacher & had two beautiful daughters, Ursula & Samantha. Meanwhile, Miriam converted to Catholicism, & married a local priest. They both had one son, little Timmy, & one daughter, little Tina. Unfortunately, though, Father Billy & Miriam have been under a lot of duress for all these years-while Tina remained with her mother & father, Timmy kinda took the wrong path, & started hanging out with some bad kids...They got him into lots of trouble. It ended up being so stressful for Father Billy & Miriam that they kicked Timmy out of the house, & told him not to come back until he had improved his behavior..." Hiram sighed, then gave a hopeful smile at Victoria, & opined optimistically, "One day, Timmy will return to his mother. Slowly, but surely, he's beginning to turn over a brand-new leaf."

"And what happened to you when you moved to London, Uncle Hiram?" Cousin Samantha inquired.

Smiling fondly as he recalled the events, Hiram replied, "Well, I set up my toy shop business on Walnut Avenue, found the mouse woman of my dreams, got married to her, & had our sweet, adorable daughters...Olivia & Arden." Then, Hiram's face gradually sported another sad frown, as he came to the tragic part of his story: "After Arden ran away from home & never came back, Virginia stayed to help me raise Olivia & run the toy shop for the next 3 years...But, then, one day, while we were going home from grocery-shopping, a hansom cab was about to run over us! I managed to grab Olivia, & whisk her out of the way in time...but for poor Virginia, it was too late..." The toymaker sighed again, & added, "The Flaversham household lost a devoted wife & a loving mother that day." [7]

"I'm sorry, Daddy," Arden commiserated, gazing sadly at her father as she tenderly placed her paw on his. "I truly am."

Hiram looked up at his older daughter with a wistful gaze, then went back to working on his toys, gradually returning to his normal cheery disposition as he spoke: "Thanks, Arden. It feels a little lonely, sometimes, without your mother around, but we try to move on...for her memory's sake. Virginia would want us to live as though she were still among us, not mope around & grieve for her loss. And that's what Olivia & I have tried to do for the last 2 years."

"You & your family appear to be very resilient rodents, Hiram," Victoria remarked.

"Well, Victoria, as I like to say, the Flavershams always make it through the best of times...& the worst of times," Hiram stated stalwartly. "Even though the family toy shop business is going through some tough troubles right now, Olivia, Arden, Timmy, Tina, Ursula, Samantha, & I don't let it bring us down! I'm sure things will get better for us one day soon!"

While she listened to Hiram say all these things as he worked busily on his toys, Victoria couldn't help but smile in utter amazement at the toymaker. She could clearly see the sense of inner strength & fortitude than ran in his family's blood. "I'm sure they will, Hiram," Victoria beamed, astounded by her friend's incredible puissance & persistence. "I'm sure they will." Hiram looked up at Victoria, & returned her smile, before going back to working on his toys some more. Bless me bagpipes! Hiram thought. You'd think that for someone with such a tragic, troubled past, they wouldn't be so optimistic or upbeat...But just look at Victoria! I swear, that woman is full of surprises...

"So, how did you come to know Basil, Dr. Dawson, Mrs. Judson, Ratigan, & Fidget?" Victoria asked.

"Well, it's a long story," Hiram replied. "I can give you the short version for now, & fill you in on all the details later. Back in June, Queen Mousetoria was celebrating her Diamond Jubilee. Ratigan & Fidget, who were evil at that time, kidnapped me in order to use my toymaking & inventing skills. They wanted me to build a robot queen that would take the real queen's place, & make it easier for Ratigan to become king. Olivia met Dr. Dawson while trying to look for someone to help her, & they went to Baker Street to enlist Basil's assistance. Naturally, of course, they also met Mrs. Judson. Anyway, after some investigation, Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Olivia found out what Ratigan & Fidget were up to, & they managed to put a stop to their scheme. Basil & Dr. Dawson were awarded & knighted for their heroic actions, & Olivia & I left for Mouse Scotland not too long afterward, where we were reunited with Arden. We decided to stay with my parents & their neighbors for a while, but we ended up going back to Mouse London earlier than we expected when we heard about the latest developments in the toymaking industry. When we returned to the city, the toy shop was there to give us a warm welcome, as were Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, & Cousin Samantha."

"You said something about your toy shop having business troubles," Cousin Ursula remembered. "When did that start?"

"Not too long after we reopened the store," Hiram answered. "There were a lot of factors involved, & a lot of reasons as to why it went under...but, nonetheless, things got so bad to the point where you, Olivia, Arden, Timmy, Tina, Samantha, & I were at the poverty level! Luckily, Basil, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson saw what was going on, & they kindly offered to let us stay with them while we got the toy shop back on its feet again. At the same time, Ratigan & Fidget had reformed, & they made peace with Basil & the rest of us, before taking up lodgings at our place."

"My goodness," Victoria gasped in astonishment, "those actions were quite noble & generous on Basil's part!"

"Indeed, they were, Victoria," Hiram agreed warmly. "Fursonally, I think Basil has always been a white knight in shining armor, with a heart as golden as that of any other hero. He just didn't always show that side of himself...not until Olivia & I came into his life. Looking back, it's amazing to see how much Basil has changed over the last few months! But, then again, it's not entirely surprising...My daughter has a way of bringing out the best qualities in rodents. She could turn the gruffest guy in town to a cheery, chipper chap within a matter of mere moments!"

"I'm sure she inherited that trait from you, Mr. Flaversham," Victoria complimented.

"Aye, indeed...& from her mother, too!" Hiram gushed gaily. "Olivia's got a special charm that only a scoundrel like Mouses Fiennes could resist!"

A beat of silence passed, before Victoria finally rose from her seat, & made her way to the door. "Well, it was absolutely lovely chatting with you, Hiram," the ex-princess said sweetly, "& I hope to see you again before the day is out. I'll leave you to your work, now..." Before walking out into the hallway, Victoria added abruptly, "Oh, & I hope your business fares much better!"

"I'm sure it will," Hiram replied with a nod. "I'm sure it will."

(CUE MUSIC: "Piano Concerto In A Minor", by Johann Sebastian Bach)

That evening, the Baker Street Family & Victoria ate dinner in the dining room, & when everyone was finished with their evening meal, they all went upstairs to tend to their vesperal business. In the washroom that adjoined Basil's bedroom, Victoria took a nice, hot bubble bath, humming a merry tune as she scrubbed & washed herself from head to toe. Her nudity was hidden by a dark-green privacy silk-screen placed in front of the bathtub, & little light-blue bubbles could be seen floating out from behind it. On the other side of the room, Basil opened the door, & walked into the cleansing chamber, clutching a set of ladies' nightclothes in his paws. Bending over to lay the nightclothes neatly on top of the basin counter, Basil announced, "Victoria, I thought I'd let you know that I've laid out your nightclothes for you on top of the sink." Then, Basil bent back upright, & turned around to face Victoria, as he added, "Mrs. Judson has lent you one of her nightgowns, &..."

Suddenly, Basil stopped in mid-sentence, & his eyes bugged out in a look of utter surprise. The detective had expected his guest to be done with her bath by this moment, but Victoria wasn't quite finished yet—as a matter of fact, she was in the middle of scrubbing her back. Still seated in the bathtub behind the privacy screen, Victoria slowly turned to look at Basil, waiting for him to say more. Basil, however, misinterpreted her motions, & immediately placed his right hand over both eyes, grimacing in embarrassment. "Oh, dear, I am so sorry, Victoria!" Basil cried, averting his gaze away from the woman. "Didn't mean to be a peeping Tom!" Still holding his paw over his peepers, Basil rushed out of the washroom, slamming the door shut behind him as he exited. That was certainly very peculiar, Victoria thought to herself as she went back to bathing. Ah, well, no matter. I'll just explain everything to Basil when I get out.

Once Victoria was finally done with her bath, she put on the nightgown that Mrs. Judson had lent her, & went into Basil's bedroom, where the detective was waiting for her.

The nightgown was a long fuchsia flannel nightgown with long sleeves, lace decorating the collar and wrists, & five small, pink buttons going down the front, along with her pale-pink sleeveless bodice & matching bloomers.

Anyway, it only took a few seconds for Victoria to tell Basil about the earlier misunderstanding, & once that little issue was cleared up, Basil took Victoria by the paw, & escorted her to the house's third floor via the staircase that was next to Dr. Dawson's room. The first room on the west side of the third-story hallway was the duo's destination—none other than the guest bedroom. The guest bedroom had golden walls (decorated with ruby paisley designs) & a dark-golden carpet. A great canopy bed with light-cherry-red mattresses & matching bedsheets & pillows, large scarlet curtains (with golden draw-tassels) on all four sides (attached to the scarlet canopy), scarlet blankets, white linens, reddish-brown mahogany bedposts (with a headboard of the same color & material), & a warm, fuzzy fuchsia blanket stood at the center of the north wall, with a mahogany nightstand on the right side of it. On the west wall were two mahogany chests (filled with all sorts of toys & games), a mahogany writing desk (adorned with a lamp), & a large mahogany bookcase (the shelves of which were filled with various tomes & periodicals). A ruby rug (juxtaposed between two scarlet chairs that faced the south wall) adorned the center of the room. A medium-sized TV (facing the bed & two chairs) sat on top of a mahogany table that rested against the south wall. A mahogany desk with a PC computer & a mahogany armoire were on the east wall, separated from one another by the door that led into the room.

At this moment, the door swung open, & Basil led Victoria into the guest room, still holding her by the paw. "Here you are, Victoria," Basil said. "The guest bedroom is all set for you."

Victoria turned to face Basil with a grateful smile, then gave him a great, big hug as she exclaimed ecstatically, "Oh, Basil, thank you! Thank you & your family so much for your hospitality!"

Still wrapping her arms around Basil in a powerful embrace, Victoria leaned over to give the detective a long, tender kiss on the nose. When Victoria finally pulled away from the kiss, leaving a noticeable lipstick print on his muzzle, Basil's cheeks blushed a bright red. He looked a little embarrassed at first...but, then, he smiled warmly at Victoria, & returned the hug (but not the kiss) as he replied, "You're welcome, Victoria." Basil then gently parted from the hug, & began walking off. "I'll leave you to get settled in, now," Basil said. With that, Basil walked out through the threshold of the guest room, & shut the door closed, leaving a satisfied Victoria alone in her room. As she flopped onto the mattress of the canopy bed, Victoria spread her arms out like the wings of a liberated bird, & looked up at the ceiling with a happy expression. Never would Victoria have imagined how greatly her life could change in the span of only a few minutes, but it had, & everything was coming up roses for her now! Fate worked in such remarkable ways sometimes...

That night, Victoria was sitting up under the covers of her canopy bed, looking wide awake. Her earlier train of thought had continued to run like a locomotive going nonstop, & they had overstimulated her mind to the point where she was unable to sleep. "Oh, drat it," Victoria whispered to herself in vexation. "It's already 10:30 in the evening, & I can't seem to sleep a wink tonight!" In an ironic imitation of her actions from only a few hours ago, the former princess flopped down onto her mattress, giving an exasperated sigh as she tossed & turned about restlessly. "How am I ever going to get any decent slumber?" Victoria wondered aloud. After a few seconds, Victoria stopped pitching back & forth under her covers when her ears perked up to a faint sound flowing from one of the rooms on the second floor...the sound of a gentle harp melody. Her curiosity now piqued, Victoria pulled back the covers, then got out of bed, went over to the door of the guest room, opened it, & walked out.

Meanwhile, in Ratigan & Fidget's room, the lights were off, except for the lamp on Ratigan's nightstand. Fidget was sleeping in his upside-down bed, but Ratigan (in his long nightshirt) was wide awake, & playing that gentle melody on his harp, illuminated by the glow of his nightstand lamp. Victoria quietly, cautiously stepped into the bedroom, & stood by Ratigan, watching him play his beloved instrument with an amazed, enraptured look on her face. Victoria couldn't help but fawn in delight as she commented upon the tune her friend was playing: "Oh...how beautiful! What a lovely song!"

Upon hearing those words of praise, Ratigan paused his performance for a few moments, & turned around on his harp-stool to face Victoria with a soft smile. "You like it? I wrote it myself," the rat said pleasantly.

"You play harp & write music?" Victoria marveled. "My word, Ratigan, you're a musical prodigy!"

"Thank you," a flattered Ratigan replied, unable to resist smiling "smugly" at Victoria. Ratigan then proceeded to play the rest of his harp song, & when he finally finished, he asked Victoria with another amiable smile, "Any requests you have in mind?"

"Oh...Well, there's one song that I particularly enjoy," Victoria answered.

"I think I know precisely what that song is," Ratigan said.

With that, Ratigan began to play Victoria's favorite song—a sweet & soothing, yet haunting, lullaby. When she heard the musical piece, Victoria smiled, her face brightening in recognition of the melody. "I know that song..." Victoria recalled fondly. "It was a lullaby that Mother used to play for me & my sister when I lived in the palace! As a matter of fact, Mother composed it shortly before Mousetoria & I were born."

Ratigan looked back at Victoria with a pleasant grin as he said, "Yes...And whenever you needed to be lulled off to sleep, or whenever you were feeling sad or upset in any way, Queen Mother Catherine would play that song to calm you & make you feel better." Ratigan went back to playing the lullaby on his harp, but continued speaking to Victoria as he did so. "As it turned out, the royal lullaby came to be well-known throughout the world," Ratigan added while he carried on with his musical performance. "Sometimes, Mouses Fiennes would play it for me, & sometimes, he would ask me to play it for him...even when he was busy with criminal matters. You know..."—he let out a wistful sigh—"...I wish I had a mother as kind & loving as yours, Victoria."

As Ratigan continued to play her lullaby, Victoria kept staring at the former felon, but her smile turned into a sad frown when she realized the tragic implications of Ratigan's last two statements. "Of course..." Victoria said sadly, nodding her head as her face fell. "You were living in the sewer lair during my years at the Chez Chic. Mouses had taken you hostage...but you were much more than just a 'child-figure' to him. You were his pupil, his protege...next in line to take the position of the world's greatest criminal mind!"

Ratigan stopped playing the lullaby for a brief moment, & turned to talk to Victoria, as his once-pleasant expression became somewhat bitter. "That's not necessarily news to me, my dear Victoria," Ratigan said somewhat sullenly. "In spite of my best attempts to put my past behind me, I regret to say that I haven't forgotten anything about those days...& I'm certain you haven't forgotten anything about them, either."

Ratigan then went back to playing the lullaby, now appearing aloof & distant from Victoria. The former princess quickly made an attempt to appease her offended friend, & she cried apologetically, "Oh, please don't be upset, Ratigan! I didn't mean to bring up such bad memories for you..." (Ratigan did not respond to her, & continued playing more of the royal berceuse.) "But if you'd care to listen to me any further...I thought I should mention something." Upon hearing this, Ratigan stopped playing, & turned to face Victoria again. Looking at Ratigan with a sad expression, Victoria continued, "I understand your desire to forget everything that happened to you in your past. I know you want to forget all about being corrupted & sent onto the path of your former criminal lifestyle..." (A pause for breath.) "But please realize that I feel no anger towards you for what you did during the last several years...only pity."

Still seated at his harp, Ratigan continued looking at Victoria, as his expression became less bitter & more sad with each passing second. Meanwhile, Victoria kept on with her sympathetic speech: "Anyone who knew of what happened when you were living with Mouses & the thugs would feel sorry for you...& for what you went through. No child should ever have to experience what you did, regardless of who he is or where he's from...That's the other reason why Mouses had 'taken you hostage'. He'd not only kept you locked up in captivity to spend the rest of your young life training to be his criminal pupil...but he had also robbed you of your childhood, deprived you of a normal lifestyle, & turned you into a brainwashed monster who had no idea of a better world outside of the one he knew...until he came close to losing everything he had, including his very existence! Some were lucky to escape before Mouses could completely destroy their lives, but you...you couldn't be saved."

Ratigan gazed sadly at Victoria, & nodded his head in response to her words, as he replied remorsefully, "Yes...you're quite right, Victoria." Bowing his head down over his chest, he added, "When I became a teenager, I was no longer free from Mouses' rule..." Ratigan lifted his head up a little, & turned back on his stool to face his harp, as if to resume playing it. But he didn't; instead, he continued talking with Victoria, turning to face her instead. "Even though others were fortunately able to flee to the world above the sewer lair, Mouses made sure that I remained under his power, & never tried to break away from his command over me," Ratigan explained. "The Master Of Evil simply couldn't—wouldn't 'allow his criminal pupil to escape to the world of goodness & kindness', where he told me I would 'fare miserably in life' & 'not have an advantage over all the suckers & simps that needed to be exterminated'..." (Beat.) "The world above the sewer lair, Mouses told me, was a world where smart & intelligent mice—emphasis on that word—were snubbed & mocked & ridiculed by ignorant commoners & pitiful peons who were doomed to extinction, because they didn't have any brains to help them get by in their measly existence!"

"And you believed every word of that? You really thought that all that...that poppycock Mouses handed you was actually true?" Victoria asked, absolutely astonished.

"He started handing me that 'poppycock' since I was 3," Ratigan replied. "And with no one else to tell me otherwise, I had no choice but to believe in what Mouses told me."

"But...didn't you ever think to yourself that, somehow, what Mouses told you might have been...unreasonable in some way?" Victoria inquired, still shocked by what she was hearing.

Ratigan scoffed, & retorted with bitter, ironic sarcasm, "There was no room for 'thinking' when it came to Mouses' instructions. No matter what you 'thought' of the words & ideas that came out of his mouth, you had to accept them without question...& hope against hope that the loony old nut had a good idea of what he was talking about."

"But even so...did Mouses ever consider the possibility that he might...turn out to be wrong?" Victoria questioned.

Looking like he was almost about to laugh, Ratigan replied, "Mouses? Considering the possibility that he might be wrong?" Ratigan stifled the laugh with another scoff, & continued, "I'm afraid you're looking at the rodent world's most stubborn villain...not to mention the cockiest. The day Mouses would ever say anything about being wrong is the day when humans will learn to get along—i.e., not in a million years!" Becoming a little more serious in tone now, Ratigan added, "As far as I can tell, Mouses had no way of knowing that there was a chance I might escape one day...but even if he did think about the possibility, he refused to believe it. He was so bloody certain that I was going to become the world's greatest criminal mind, & make him proud..." (At this point, his tone became more humorous again.) "Well, his plan worked for about 17 years, but, of course, we all know what happened when Mouses 'great hopes for my future' were dashed into smithereens..." As a smile appeared on his face, Ratigan declared in delight, "And when everything was said & done, Mouses turned out to be wrong, after all. I did escape..."—his smile turned into a sad frown—"...but I am still not free."

Victoria looked at Ratigan in puzzlement, not quite sure what he meant by that last phrase. Getting increasingly upset & distressed with each word he said, Ratigan orated sadly to his friend, "Even in the light of the law-abiding world, the dark shadows of that evil world in the sewer lair continue to follow me...even when others can't see them." (Beat.) "Mouses has attacked my family once—when he assaulted Basil during the investigation of a fake case he had concocted to trap him—& although he hasn't attacked us again since that day, I still worry for my family's safety, as well as my own—now more than ever. I worry that Mouses might come back to bring me under his evil power again...And judging by the way he attacked Basil, I've got the feeling that that's precisely what he's set out to do."

At this point, Ratigan got up off of his harp stool, & paced the floor of his room in agitation, punctuating his words with exaggerated gestures as he continued speaking, his speech becoming more inflamed & impassioned with each passing second: "Don't ever make the mistake of underestimating Mouses Fiennes—he may be insane, Victoria, but he's notoriously persistent! He won't stop until the Baker Street Family is destroyed, & he's kidnapped me & Fidget...& made sure that we're both corrupted beyond the point of any & all redemption! The very thought of such a terrible fate happening to me & my loved ones haunts me wherever I go, & that is why I am not free—I may be reformed, but I must always be on my guard to make sure that I stay that way...Otherwise, Fidget & I will both be in hot water, & nobody will be able to do anything about it!" At the end of his monologue, Ratigan sank to his knees, & struck a dramatic pose.

Victoria went over to Ratigan, before placing a supportive paw on his shoulder, & bringing him out of his tragic reverie. While Ratigan looked at her as he slowly stood up on his feet, Victoria said comfortingly, "You mustn't let those things get to you, Ratigan! I understand that there's a need for you & your family to be cautious about Mouses...but if you worry too much about him corrupting you again, you won't be able to fully enjoy being reformed...being the good & caring rat that you are now, instead of the malevolent monster you once were. And if you don't savor every moment of your days as a do-gooder, & strive to make each of them worthwhile for yourself & others...is there any point to spending them, & being reformed at all?" (Ratigan stared at Victoria wistfully, then thoughtfully, as he took her words into consideration.) "We all have ghosts of the past that haunt us in some way. Some of these ghosts are harder for us to deal with than others...but we can face our inner demons, & confront them, if we make an effort to forget all about the dark things in our past...& look toward the bright things that await us in the future."

As he listened to these words of wisdom, Ratigan started to smile at Victoria. Meanwhile, the former princess continued with her optimistic oration: "And I know things will get better for you, Ratigan. Even if you don't think they will at first." Victoria removed her paw from Ratigan's shoulder, & gestured to herself as she added, "I mean, just look at me! I'm a living example of that!" Ratigan's smile widened, & Victoria returned the smile as she took his chin in her paw, & assured him ardently, "Please believe me, Ratigan, when I say that...someday, someday, you will be free from Mouses' rule over you. Now, I'm not saying that that's going to happen to you overnight...but it will happen nonetheless. I just know it will!"

His heart now filled with hope & happiness again, Ratigan leaned over to hug Victoria, smiling from ear to ear as he thanked his friend for her help & support. "Thank you, Victoria," Ratigan said sincerely. "Thank you...for everything."

Victoria gladly returned the hug, wrapping her arms around Ratigan, & patting his back. "It's no trouble at all, Ratigan," Victoria replied kindly. "I only thought it best that I offer you a few words of encouragement."

Ratigan gently parted from the hug, but continued to face Victoria & smile broadly at her as he chivalrously clasped her right paw between his two hands. Putting her left paw to her blushing cheeks, a flattered (but coy) Victoria smiled & posed humbly in reaction to Ratigan's response: "If I may be so honest, madam, your kind gesture turned out to be far more helpful than either you or I would have originally anticipated!" Victoria quickly moved her left paw over her mouth to stifle a bashful giggle. Ratigan continued to smile at Victoria, as he gently released her right paw, & walked back over to his harp stool. "And to show my utmost gratitude & appreciation for this noble deed," Ratigan remarked pleasantly, "I am going to reward the fair Princess Victoria with an encore of her favorite song."

With that, Ratigan sat down at his harp, & began playing Victoria's lullaby, not stopping until he got all the way to the very end. When Ratigan finally finished playing the song, he looked up to face Victoria, & sported a look of surprise when he saw what she was doing. The lullaby had lulled Victoria to sleep; she was now flopped over on Ratigan's bed, snoring gently. Ratigan walked over to his bed, smiling tenderly down at the sleeping Victoria. After watching his friend slumber for a few seconds, Ratigan bent down to lift Victoria off of the mattress, & carried her off to the upstairs guest room. As he tucked Victoria back into her own bed, Ratigan bid the former princess "goodnight". "Sleep tight, Your Majesty," the reformed rogue whispered warmly, before leaving Victoria alone in her quarters to catch up on some much-needed slumber.

Monday, November 2, 1897

The next morning was bright, beautiful, & sunny, with nothing but clear blue skies over Mouse London! The members of the Baker Street Family all got up bright & early, & headed down into the dining room for breakfast. Once again, Mrs. Judson had outdone herself with her culinary skills, & Basil & his loved ones were quite eager to help themselves to the delicious dairy delights & other morning morsels that the mousekeeper had prepared for them. When everyone was finally finished with breakfast, they all went upstairs to get dressed for the exciting day that lay ahead. When Victoria went back to the guest room, & realized she didn't have any other clothes to wear, she almost started to panic, but Basil was quick to assure his female companion, "Not to worry, Tori! I have just the right outfit for you to wear!" And, so, Basil dashed off for his bedroom closet, searching every nook & cranny for the clothes & accessories that would be most appropriate for adorning his lady friend's furson. [8] Finally, Basil got all the necessary items to complete Victoria's makeover, & he gave them to her to put on.

When Victoria came back out of her makeshift "dressing room", she couldn't resist posing & modeling in her new outfit, & Basil was delighted to see that it fit so well on her...in more ways than one. Victoria was now wearing a dark fuchsia fur "robe" (with a collar, cuffs, & trimmings that were all colored pink), a light fuchsia silk sash-belt, a fuschia silk dress (with long sleeves that ended in frilly cuffs), a rather long (& very frilly) pink cravat (with a circular fuchsia brooch pinned to the top of it), a small dark fuchsia crown (decorated with golden ornamentation & turquoise gems), a (very frilly) pink silk veil, a pair of pink bead earrings, a pink bead choker, a thick golden bracelet (completely covered with large, oval-shaped fuchsia gems) on her right wrist, a round rose-quartz ring on the first right finger, a round fuchsia ring on the third right finger, a fuchsia hoop bracelet (worn on her left wrist), an oval-shaped hot-pink ring on the second left finger, a pair of fuchsia high-heel shoes, & a modest amount of makeup on her face. [9]

"Victoria," Basil complimented his comrade, "you look absolutely wonderful—no, ravishing!—in those clothes!"

"Thank you," Victoria replied with a modest smile. "So, where you & your family taking me today?"

"Oh, several places, Victoria!" Basil exclaimed exuberantly. "Places that are sure to steal your heart, capture your interest, & tickle your fancy!"

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Victoria asked enthusiastically. "Let's go!"

With that, Basil & Victoria joined the others in the living room, & once everyone was all together, they went outside onto the front porch to board the family van. As they drove to the first of their outing locations, the members of the Baker Street Family chitted & chatted with one another about various topics, while also taking time to compliment Victoria on her "awesome" new attire. As it happens, though, our heroes didn't have to travel very far to their first stop, for it was located on the mouse street of Derby Lane (known to us humans as Marylebone Road), a famous West End thoroughfare that ran perpendicular to Baker Street.

(CUE MUSIC: The 1st movement of "Spring", from Antonio Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons")

When the Baker Street Family & Victoria parked their car in front of Lower 719 Derby Lane, they were pleasantly surprised to see that the first part of their day-long outing would take place in this very building...the London Children's Mouseum! Over the double-doors that made up the entrance, there was a super-large sign welcoming everyone into the museum; the sign was decorated with brightly-colored paint, big letters in "fun" fonts, & fun-looking designs. The Baker Street Family & Victoria made their way inside the London Children's Mouseum; upon entering the building, the rodents immediately saw that it was a busy, bustling place of activity, filled with all sorts of interactive displays & fascinating exhibits of eye-catching design. Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, & Fidget rushed off to check out these interactive attractions & activities, while Ratigan stood behind them with Victoria & the adults in the Baker Street Family, who were watching the younger children with interest. Ratigan looked a little more amused than interested, however.

In a playful tone, Ratigan wondered aloud, "I understand you wanted us to have another Baker Street Family outing day so that we could spend some time with Victoria, & get to know her a little more, but..."—he glanced aside at Basil with a smirk—"...are you sure that making the London Children's Mouseum our first stop was a...wise idea, Basil?"

Basil smiled at Ratigan, as did the other adults. "If you look past the word 'children', Ratigan, you'd find that this place actually has a lot of fascinating things..." Basil said, his words trailing off as he looked around the interior of the museum. Suddenly, something caught Basil's eye, & the detective turned his head around to gaze at the mysterious item. Upon seeing it, his eyes widened with interest, his eyebrows went up sharply, & he pointed in the direction he was looking. "Hallao...What's that?" Basil said to himself. "What's that? Looks interesting!"

Still gazing at the thing that had captured his attention, Basil walked over to it; Victoria subsequently followed him, while Ratigan & the other adults stayed to watch the younger Baker Street Kids interacting with the museum exhibits. Within moments, Basil & Victoria approached one of the interactive displays—a mechanical, Ferris-style spinning cogwheel with six thimbles (full of brightly-colored paint in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, & purple) attached to it. The table that the exhibit was on also had six metal trays that the paint fell into through the holes in the bottom of the thimbles, as well as sheets of paper & a set of moist towelettes. Basil knelt down by the exhibit, watching it with interest, as Victoria did the same, crouching on her knees beside Basil. Looking at Victoria for a second, then pointing to the exhibit, Basil remarked in astonishment, "Would you look at that, Victoria? What an amazing device!"

Victoria & Basil both leaned over a little to further scrutinize the interactive display. The two mice watched as each of the six colored paints fell out through the holes in the bottom of each thimble as it rose & fell, landing into a different tray—one for the red paint, one for the orange paint, one for yellow, one for green, one for blue, & one for purple. Basil turned to Victoria with a delighted grin, & with his face lighting up like a kid in a candy store, the detective said, "Ooh, Victoria, fingerpaints!" Basil rolled back the sleeves of his shirt & trenchcoat, before reaching a paw out to scoop up some of the red paint in his fingers. "I haven't used fingerpaints since I was a mouseling!" Basil added excitedly. With the other hand, Basil took one of the large sheets of paper on the table, & brought it closer to him so that he could begin painting. Victoria eagerly followed his lead, quickly finding enjoyment in the activity she & Basil were partaking in.

For the next several minutes, Basil & Victoria scooped up paint from each of the six trays, placing their pigment-coated fingers on the sheets of paper in front of them, & creating different pictures on the papers (i.e., a bluebird with a yellow beak & legs, a blossoming yellow sunflower with an orange center & a leafy green stem, a golden magnifying glass with blue-tinted glass, & a big red apple with a green leaf). At one point, Basil was humming merrily to himself as he used the six different paints to make a big rainbow on a blank piece of paper, followed by a smiling yellow sun with brilliant orange rays. Then, Basil added some blue paint to make the sky (leaving some white space for clouds), green paint to make the grass on the bottom of the picture, & different shades of each paint to make each member of the Baker Street Family—Olivia, Arden, Hiram, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, Fidget, Mrs. Judson, Dr. Dawson, Basil...& Victoria!

Victoria, who was busy doing another painting, looked aside for a moment to see what Basil was doing. She suddenly sported a surprised expression when she saw Basil kneeling over the painting he had just done, looking down at his completed portrait in a mixture of awe & puzzlement. After a few seconds of gazing at the picture, Basil looked up at Victoria with a sheepish, toothy grin, & gave a bashful chuckle. A flattered, amused Victoria giggled, then leaned over to kiss Basil on the nose. When her lips parted away from Basil's nose, Victoria daintily tapped her red-covered forefinger on the spot where she kissed him, & Basil quickly found himself starting to blush again...

After the Baker Street Family was finished exploring the London Children's Mouseum, they took the van to the mouse street of Munsteur Square (known to us humans as Munster Square), where an arts-&-crafts fair was held every day at No. 803. Here, there were lots of booths, stalls, & kiosks where one could purchase premade crafts, have items custom-made for them, or even make their own goodies & gifts! Basil & his loved ones immediately started checking out every stand & table they could find, looking for any items of interest that they would like to buy, make, or have made. And, oh, what marvelous things they found!

First, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to a booth where one could buy premade stained-glass windows. Basil got a window depicting the goddess Athena & her pet owl. Olivia got a window depicting a rainbow. Arden got a window depicting a bonfire. Hiram got a window depicting a landscape at sunset. Cousin Timmy got a window depicting the classic painting "The Birth Of Venus" (one of his all-time favorite works of art). Cousin Tina got a window depicting a violin. Cousin Ursula got a window depicting a tree. Cousin Samantha got a window depicting a playground. Ratigan got a window depicting an angel playing a harp. Dr. Dawson got a window depicting a caduceus. Victoria got a window depicting a crowned heart. Fidget & Mrs. Judson didn't find any stained-glass windows that they wanted. Once Basil purchased each of the windows he & his loved ones had found, the Baker Street Family pressed on with their perusal through the arts-&-crafts fair.

Next, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to a booth where one could make their own needlework. Basil made a sign with the words "Veridis Quo" (Latin for "Where truth is found"). [10] Olivia made a picture of a teddy bear. Arden made a picture of the Earth. Hiram made a sign with the phrase "All work & no play makes Hiram a dull mouse". Cousin Timmy (who loved sewing, by the way) made a picture of an ace of hearts. Cousin Tina made a picture of Cleomousetra. Cousin Ursula made a picture of an octopus. Cousin Samantha made a picture of a rabbit. Ratigan made a picture of the scales of justice. Dr. Dawson made a sign with the phrase "First do no harm" (the first part of the Hippocratic Oath he had taken so long ago...ah, the memories!). Mrs. Judson made a sign saying "Home Sweet Home". Victoria made a picture of her beloved twin sister, Queen Mousetoria. After everyone finished their respective needlework, they purchased them, & moved on to the next interesting place.

Next, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to a booth where one could have homemade home decor custom-made for them. Basil ordered a "tin dispatch box" monogrammed with the initials "B.S.F." (for "Baker Street Family", of course!). Olivia ordered a circus clown piggy bank. Arden ordered a photograph of herself with Olivia, their father, & their late mother, Virginia. Hiram ordered a tartan throw rug. Cousin Timmy ordered a lap tray painted with checkerboard patterns. Cousin Tina ordered some lilac curtains. Cousin Ursula ordered a raspberry lava lamp. Cousin Samantha ordered a rabbit piggy bank. Ratigan ordered a statuette of the Mouse Greek god & legendary hero Furcules. Fidget ordered a trash bin that looked like an acorn (with the brown cap as the lid). Dr. Dawson ordered a sculpture of the angel Raphael (famous for his reputation as a healer). Mrs. Judson ordered a pair of bookends shaped like bunny rabbits. Victoria ordered a wall hanging of a butterfly made out of footprints. When all of their custom-made gifts were finally finished, Basil & his loved ones made their respective purchases, & moved on.

Next, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to a booth where one could have keychains custom-made for them. Basil ordered a keychain depicting a magnifying glass. Olivia ordered a keychain depicting a rainbow. Arden ordered a keychain depicting a bonfire. Hiram ordered a keychain depicting a music box. Cousin Timmy ordered a keychain depicting a cameo of Queen Cleomousetra (one of his all-time favorite female historical figures). Cousin Tina ordered a keychain depicting a violin. Cousin Ursula ordered a keychain depicting a fish. Cousin Samantha ordered a keychain depicting a palm tree. Ratigan ordered a keychain depicting a quill writing on a scroll. Fidget ordered a keychain depicting a bottle of soda (one of his several weaknesses!). Dr. Dawson ordered a keychain depicting the emblem of Queen Mousetoria's 66th Regiment. Mrs. Judson ordered a keychain depicting a feather duster. Victoria ordered a keychain depicting the royal crest (an emblem of her noble heritage that would always remind her where she came from). When all of the keychains were done being made, Basil purchased each one, & led his companions off to their next stop.

Next, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to a booth where one could have Christmas ornaments custom-made for them. Basil ordered an ornament of a violin. Olivia ordered an ornament of a Rainbow Christmas Cracker. Arden ordered an ornament of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Hiram ordered an ornament of a nutcracker. Cousin Timmy ordered an ornament of the famed medieval warrior Saint Marie De Touraine (one of his favorite historical figures, female role models, & Catholic martyrs, not to mention his patron saint). [11] Cousin Tina ordered an ornament of the angel Gabriel. Cousin Ursula ordered an ornament of Santa Mouse. Cousin Samantha ordered an ornament of Frosty the Snowman. Ratigan ordered an ornament of Baby Jesus in his manger. Fidget ordered an ornament of a Christmas present. Dr. Dawson ordered an ornament of plum pudding (one of his all-time favorite holiday desserts!). Mrs. Judson ordered an ornament of a gingerbread cookie. Victoria ordered an ornament of the Winter Queen (the heroine of one of her favorite childhood stories). Once all of their ornaments were finished, Basil & his loved ones made their transactions, & continued on their journey through the arts-&-crafts fair.

Next, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to a booth where one could buy premade tote bags. Basil got a bag adorned with Sidney Paget's drawings of his hero Sherlock Holmes. Olivia got a bag decorated with rainbows. Arden got a bag decorated with fire. Cousin Timmy got a bag decorated with the likenesses of famous female historical figures (including the two mentioned previously). Cousin Tina got a bag covered on both sides by Vincent Van Gogh's masterpiece "Wheatfield With Cypresses" (one of her all-time favorite paintings). Cousin Ursula got a bag decorated with horses running in a field. Cousin Samantha got a bag decorated with a wide variety of creatures swimming in the ocean. Ratigan got a bag adorned with pop art of famous poet & playwright Sir William Shaftesbury. Fidget got a bag decorated with big, bright, & colorful comic strips. Mrs. Judson got a bag adorned with images of gourmet food & drinks. Victoria got a bag decorated with images of London tourist attractions. Hiram & Dr. Dawson chose not to get anything from the booth. Once our pint-sized protagonists purchased each of the tote bags they had found, they carried on with their trek through the fair.

Next, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to a booth where one could make their own bracelets. Olivia made a bracelet with rainbow stripes. Arden made a fuchsia bracelet. Cousin Timmy made a bracelet decorated with the Flaversham clan's tartan pattern. Cousin Tina made a bracelet decorated with sapphire blue gems. Cousin Ursula made a bracelet with fish. Cousin Samantha made a bracelet with stars. Ratigan made a bracelet with the title covers of famous books. Mrs. Judson made a bracelet with various types of beautiful flowers. Victoria made a bracelet decorated with symbols of the Greek gods & goddesses. Basil, Hiram, Fidget, & Dr. Dawson decided not to make anything (at least on this trip). After everyone was done with their work, they purchased their newly-created bracelets, before moving on to the next place of interest.

Next, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to a booth where one could buy premade mugs. Basil got a mug decorated with pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Olivia got a rainbow tie-dye mug. Arden got a mug decorated with the sun setting in the west. Hiram got a mug that said "World's Greatest Daddy". Cousin Timmy got a mug decorated with sheet music. Cousin Tina got a mug decorated with Egyptian hieroglyphs. Cousin Ursula got a mug decorated with a blue sky (with white clouds). Cousin Samantha got a yellow-&-green-striped mug. Ratigan got a mug decorated with books on rows of shelves. Dr. Dawson got a mug decorated with the crest of the British Rodential Army. Mrs. Judson got a mug that said "Home Is Where The Heart Is". Victoria got a mug that said "Suscipere Et Finire" (the motto of the royal family, which translates to "Support & Finish"). When Basil & his companions were done picking out their mugs, they made their respective purchases, & moved on to their last stop.

Finally, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to a booth where one could make their own bookmarks. Basil made a bookmark depicting a lamppost glowing on a foggy night. Olivia made a bookmark depicting a Rainbow Jack-In-The-Box. Arden made a bookmark depicting a campfire. Hiram made a bookmark depicting building blocks that spelled out the word "Industry". Cousin Timmy made a bookmark depicting an Old-Mousetorian-style pin-up portrait. Ratigan made a bookmark depicting the Northern Lights. Fidget made a bookmark depicting the Statue Of Liberty in New York Harbor. [12] Cousin Tina made a bookmark depicting a violin. Cousin Ursula made a bookmark depicting a bumblebee. Cousin Samantha made a bookmark depicting the ocean waves rolling high. Dr. Dawson made a bookmark depicting the Rod Of Asclepius. Mrs. Judson made a bookmark depicting Big Ben. Victoria made a bookmark depicting the royal scepter that her sister so often held. When everyone was done making their bookmarks, they purchased each one, before finally heading off for their next destination.

After exiting the arts-&-crafts fair, & boarding the van, Basil, his loved ones, & Victoria all showed each other the things they had gotten earlier. All of the rodents were delighted & fascinated with their paw-crafted prizes, & they couldn't stop chatting about them for the next several minutes. Basil, in particular, was surprised that Victoria had ordered that peculiar wall-hanging from the home decor booth. It was the only item she'd bought that had anything to do with mysteries or crimesolving. Interesting, the detective thought to himself as he complimented Victoria on her choice of decoration. I think Victoria & I just might have something in common...

(CUE MUSIC: "Piano Sonata No. 16 In C Major", by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

Not too long afterward, Basil, Victoria, & the rest of the Baker Street Family arrived on the mouse boulevard of Art Street (known to us humans as Berners Street), where the third of their outing locations was. This place, located at Lower 301 Art Street, was a quaint little establishment known as Connie's Costume Shop. Basil & his comrades parked their van in front of the store, before getting out of the vehicle, & entering the building. Connie's Costume Shop was Spartan in style & furnishing, but made up for that with all the articles of attire it had on display. Wigs, disguises, masquerade / Halloween outfits, glasses, hats, tops, trousers, suits, masks, & props of just about every sort could be seen here. "My goodness, Basil, what is this place?" Victoria asked, looking around the costume shop in awe with the Baker Street Family.

"Oh, just your average costume shop...where I go to get my various disguises, masks, & whatnot for cases where I have to go incognito," Basil replied with a smile. "But non-detectives should also enjoy what it has to offer."

Upon hearing this, Victoria looked quite fascinated, as did the others. Everyone immediately went to try on some of the things in the store, & oh, what fun they had doing so! Fidget put on a fake moustache & a funny hat, along with some goofy glasses with eyeballs that sprung out. Olivia put on a fairy princess outfit, complete with a magic wand that she waved around. Arden put on a clown, complete with a fake red rubber nose. Cousin Timmy dressed up in a samurai warrior's outfit, brandishing the fake sword that came with it. Cousin Tina dressed up in a belly dancer's costume, complete with two veils — one that she wore over her nose and mouth & another that she waved around. Cousin Ursula dressed up as a witch, complete with green face paint & a broom that went with it. Cousin Samantha dressed up as an angel with large, feathered wings & a fake halo. Victoria dressed up as a saloon girl, unable to resist doing can-can kicks & other dance moves. Hiram put on a Western cowboy's outfit, complete with red bandanna & Stetson hat. Dr. Dawson dressed up in a pirate captain's costume, complete with a spyglass that he looked through. Ratigan dressed up as a vampire, completing the sinister look by swishing his cape in front of his face (just like in a horror movie!). Mrs. Judson put on a jungle explorer's outfit. Basil dressed up as a French cabaret singer, complete with striped shirt, pencil-thin moustache, & beret. And our heroes didn't stop there! When they were done wearing their previous costumes, the Baker Street Family & Victoria kept on looking through boxes & trying on stuff.

"Wow, dis place is neat!" Fidget marveled, as he took some costume items out of a box, & put them on.

"Tell me about it!" Olivia agreed, adjusting the hood of her bear costume.

"I know, right?" her sister added, now dressed up like Queen Mousetoria.

"I wish we could stay here forever...& ever...& ever..." Cousin Timmy sighed, now dressed up like a Viking.

"Can't say I blame you." said his sister, putting the finishing touches on her mermaid costume.

"Isn't this a great place?" Cousin Ursula asked, putting the finishing touches on her Cleomousetra costume.

"It is, indeed, beautiful!" her sister agreed, adjusting the hood of her rabbit costume.

Meanwhile, Basil was standing in front of some shelves in another part of the costume shop. Just for a lark, he donned the disguise of a ghost by grabbing a white sheet laid out over a cardboard box, & draping it over himself. After making sure he was properly cloaked, Basil put his paws to his mouth, & chuckled, before tiptoeing away as he said mischievously, "Ooh, Victoria is going to be so spooked!" On the other side of the shelves Basil was in front of earlier, Victoria was rooting through some items in a costume box. She stopped as her ears perked up to a wailing sound...but, then, she went back to her business, carrying on as though nothing had happened. Unbeknownst to Victoria, Basil (still dressed in his ghost disguise) slowly tiptoed from behind the shelves, turned a corner, & crept up behind Victoria. The detective waved his arms about as he wailed spookily, "Victoooooorrrriiiaaa...Oooohh..."

This time, Victoria stopped & turned around to face the source of the sound. She looked frightened when she saw what appeared to be a ghost standing in front of her! "Oh, my heavens!" Victoria cried, spooked out of her wits. Stepping back away from the "specter", & pointing a shaking finger at it, a scared Victoria stammered, "A g-g-ghost!" Not watching where she was going, Victoria accidentally tripped over her shoe, & with a yelp, she started to fall back into the costume box she was rooting through earlier. Before Victoria could land into said box, the "ghost" swiftly rushed over to catch her in his arms just in time. Victoria took a moment to regain her bearings, then looked up at her rescuer in puzzlement...before Basil reached up a paw to yank off the sheet he was wearing, revealing himself to a relieved Victoria.

"Oh, Basil, you scared me!" Victoria gasped. "I thought you really were a ghost!"

"No, Victoria, it's just me...in the flesh," Basil replied, shaking his head with a smile on his face.

Victoria's own smile of relief turned into an annoyed frown, & she pouted at Basil, saying sulkily, "That was a mean trick!" In a huff, Victoria bonked Basil on the nose with her fist...before feeling her irritation disappear as quickly as it had arrived. Now back to her usual pleasant demeanor, Victoria smiled once more, & leaned over to kiss Basil's nose again. Basil blushed & sported a lovestruck grin as he set Victoria down onto her feet...& fainted to the floor! Goodness, does Basil always do that when a girl kisses him? Victoria thought to herself. If so, he has no reason to feel ashamed about it—I actually think it's quite adorable!

After leaving the costume shop, the Baker Street Family & Victoria stopped at a nearby restaurant for an early lunch, then went to the mouse street of Oxford Street (known to us humans by the same name). Here, at Lower 194, there was a great place where our heroes could get some delicious desserts to appease their appetites—Mr. Swissly's Ice Cream Parlor! Upon entering the eatery, the Baker Street Family & Victoria seated themselves at the bar-like counter, & within minutes after placing their respective orders, they all found themselves eating various flavors of ice cream—Olivia had peach, Arden had rainbow sherbet, Fidget had a large sundae, Cousin Timmy ate a cone of Swiss cheese ice cream, Cousin Tina had raspberry sherbet, Cousin Ursula had orange sherbet, Cousin Samantha had one scoop of lemon sherbet & another of lime sherbet. Ratigan had Neapolitan, Dr. Dawson had chocolate, Mrs. Judson had mint-&-chocolate-chip, Hiram had prune-flavored, & Basil & Victoria both had vanilla. When Basil realized that he & Victoria were sharing the same type of treat, Basil couldn't believe his eyes! Staring in awe at Victoria's bowl of ice cream, the detective marveled, "You like vanilla, too?"

"I love it!" Victoria exclaimed excitedly in between bites of ice cream. "But I had no idea you were fond of that flavor!" As she took another mouthful of dessert, & subsequently swallowed it, Victoria thought to herself in delight, As if Basil & I didn't like so many of the same things already! We both like adventure, reading, mysteries, music, history, art, children, & so on & so forth...Not to mention we even like many of the exact same stories, & movies, & TV shows, & radio programs, & magazines, & songs, & artworks, & foods, et cetera...Why, it's almost as if he & I were twins! It's astounding how much you can learn about another furson just through conversation & interaction alone! Turning to face Basil with an ecstatic smile, Victoria added, "I can't believe you & I have so much in common, Basil! It's absolutely amazing!"

With that said, Victoria went back to eating her ice cream. Gazing at his friend with a thoughtful stare, Basil nodded his head a little as he agreed, "Yes...It is amazing, Victoria..." As he went back to eating his ice cream with the others, Basil mused mentally, The more time I spend with Victoria, the more I'm beginning to like her! I wonder if there's a chance we might become more than just friends...

(CUE MUSIC: "Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba", from George Frederic Handel's "Solomon")

Early that afternoon, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to the mouse street of Mouseum Road (known to us humans as Great Russell Street), where the sixth of their outing locations was. Within a matter of seconds, Basil & his companions were walking together through the lobby / main gallery of the British Mouseum & Library, a place filled with all kinds of artifacts & exhibits related to British mouse history. Soon, the Baker Street Family & Victoria approached the open, curtain-flanked mousehole-entrance of a corridor leading into one of the museum's several wings. After passing through said entrance & corridor, our pint-sized protagonists found themselves joining a tour group that would take them through the British Mouseum & Library a bit more briskly (after all, they had so little time, & so much to do!).

The wing the rodents were currently in was the first stop on the tour, & it was dedicated to the Middle Mouse Ages. Suits of armor, coats of arms, shields, swords, collections of the royal crown jewels, regal props & attire, & medieval artworks could be seen everywhere in the area. As the Baker Street Family, Victoria, & the other tourists traveled through the wing together, they watched their young female tour guide lecture on all the medieval memorabilia in their midst, providing plenty of interesting information for all the members of her entourage.

At one point, the tour guide stood by a glass display case that housed an old, leather-bound book with its pages open to reveal the text upon them. Gesturing to said book, the tour guide declared to her throng of tourists, "And over here, inside this glass case, is where we display the open pages of the ancient book written by medieval mouse sorcerers who predicted that a terrible 'League Of Villains' would rise to power shortly before the last century of the second millennium...but their attempts to spread vice & wickedness throughout the mouse world would be thwarted by an unlikely group of rodents who would band together to defeat the forces of evil!"

Upon hearing these words, the Baker Street Family, Victoria, & the other tourists looked up in shock, surprise, awe, amazement, & wonder. Some of the tourists began talking amongst themselves in their excitement. "Man, can you believe it?" asked a male mouse tourist.

"I wonder if that prophecy will really come true," the mouse tourist's female partner mused.

"Is there really a League Of Villains?" the first of a pair of squirrel tourists pondered.

"Could be," replied the second squirrel tourist, shrugging his shoulders.

"If they rise to power, who's going to stop them?" a bat tourist inquired, turning to face a rat tourist with a worried look.

"Yes, who could that unlikely group of rodents be?" the rat tourist wondered aloud, scratching his chin thoughtfully. At this point, all the tourists turned to face the Baker Street Family & Victoria.

"Umm...why are you all staring at us?" Dr. Dawson questioned, a little unnerved by all the extra attention he & his friends were getting.

After a pause, the bat tourist pointed to our heroes, & asked them, "Are you the Baker Street Family?"

"Yes...we are..." Basil replied hesitantly.

The two squirrel tourists approached the Baker Street Family & Victoria, staring at them with wide-eyed interest & fascination. The first squirrel tourist pointed at Basil & his comrades as he addressed them (but not without accidentally poking Basil's deerstalker cap with his finger, & causing it to fall off of his head!). "Hey...Maybe, you could be that unlikely group of rodents mentioned in the prophecy!" the squirrel tourist exclaimed, intrigued by the thought of it.

Before he could answer, Basil swiftly bent down to catch his deerstalker cap in his paws, grabbing it just before it hit the ground...then moved back upright, & placed his hat back on top of his head as he faced the two squirrel tourists, & replied with a pleasant smile, "Well, it's possible...but at this present time, I can't say for 100% certain whether we're that particular band of heroes or not." When the two squirrel tourists finally walked off, Basil leaned down to whisper to Victoria & his loved ones in disbelief, "Us...as the world's greatest crimefighting force?"

Shaking his head, Hiram declared doubtfully, "I don't think the powers that be would burden us with such a great responsibility like that..." (He slowly turned to face Dr. Dawson.) "Would they?"

"Well, we have no way of really knowing for ourselves," Dr. Dawson answered, shrugging his shoulders. "We're not psychic."

"But what if the prophecy comes true, & we do turn out to be that unlikely group of heroes?" Mrs. Judson asked.

"Well, whatever will happen, will happen, Mrs. Judson," was all Basil had to say in response. "Que sera sera, as they say in Spain." He paused for a second, & added, "But until that time, let's try not to talk about it." With that, Basil, Victoria, & the rest of the Baker Street Family carried on with their tour of the British Mouseum & Library, enjoying all the marvelous sights, sounds, & other sensations that the educational institution had to offer.

Upon finishing their museum excursion, the Baker Street Family & Victoria drove to their next destination: the London Mouse Mini-Mall. As Basil & his friends traveled through the shopping center, Victoria was absolutely captivated by every single store & attraction she saw! The princess wanted to explore every nook & cranny of the mall...but when Victoria remembered that Basil & his family had additional plans for the rest of their day out, she decided not to stay too long, & picked six select stores to visit for today's trip. And, so, our heroes followed Victoria's lead as they trekked together through the London Mouse Mini-Mall, going wherever their companion wished to shop.

First, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to Gilly Gouda's Garments, where Victoria picked out some new outfits she wanted to buy. As the Baker Street Family came to discover, Victoria had an eye for fashionable attire, & the clothes she picked out were quite befitting & becoming to a princess who mingled with commoners. Fancy dresses, silk nightclothes, fine jumpsuits, old-fashioned swimsuits, nice tops & trousers, lovely accessories...all these costumes, & more, ended up going into Victoria's shopping bags! Once all the clothes were properly paid for, Victoria & the Baker Street Family went to their next stop—Bleu's Books (which happened to be the same bookstore that Basil & his loved ones visited on their first trip to the mall).

Upon arriving at Bleu's Books, the Baker Street Family decided that they didn't need to buy anything here for now, & left Victoria to scour the shelves for any items of interest. It didn't take long for Victoria to find a good selection of books to take home! Among the literary works she got, were "Whatever We Decide" (by Charles Delbert), "Primrose Path" (by Sophocles Braveheart), "World Without End" (by Amergin Burgess), "As They Were Watching" (a novel), "Just What The Doctor Ordered" (a cookbook filled with recipes for healthy foods), "Perilous Adventures By Land & Sea" (another novel), & "Poisonous Beauty" (a murder-mystery novel). As soon as all the tomes were paid for, Victoria put the newly-purchased books into her shopping bags, & followed the Baker Street Family back outside.

Next, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to the Mousy's department store, where Victoria "splurged" on cosmetics, perfume, & jewelry (she made plans to visit the other departments in future visits to the mall). [13] Among all the things she found to buy at Mousy's, there was one item in particular that Victoria simply had to buy! It was an elegantly-shaped bottle of blue perfume, labeled with the name of "La Cote D'Azur". "My sister loved to wear this perfume when she was growing up!" Victoria reminisced fondly, as she took the bottle, & put it with her other goodies. "Sometimes, she would share some of it with me, too!" When Victoria had found all the things she wanted to buy, she went to the check-out counter to make her purchases, & subsequently put her newly-bought items in her shopping bags.

Afterwards, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to the music-box store, where they browsed through the shelves for anything of interest. At one point, a particular music box caught Victoria's eye, & she went to take a closer look at it. The music box was shaped like a crescent moon, with a beautiful fairy princess balancing on her tiptoes on the bottom half. When she turned the wind-up key on the side, Victoria was pleasantly surprised to hear a tinny rendition of the royal lullaby flowing forth from the mechanical contraption, as the fairy figurine slowly twirled around in time to the music. With her violet eyes lighting up in delight, Victoria asked her friends, "Oh, I simply must have this music box! May I buy it?" When Basil told her to go right ahead, Victoria carefully took the music box, & took it to the check-out counter for purchasing. After taking the necessary amount of money from Victoria, the cashier safely wrapped up the music box in a plush-padded container, where it would be safe & sound on the way back to Baker Street.

Then, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to the record store. Upon entering the shop, Victoria immediately started browsing through the shelves, looking for any CDs, tapes, or records that she wanted to buy. Within minutes, she found a treasure trove of awesome albums—ranging from classical, to pop, to easy listening, to rock-&-roll, & many other genres in between—by various artists, bands, & composers. [14] Already, Victoria couldn't wait to listen to each album when she got back home! With all of her chosen CDs & tapes in paw, Victoria took the items to the check-out counter, & paid for each one, before putting them all in her shopping bags, & following her friends to their final stop.

Finally, the Baker Street & Victoria went to the Mousetoria's Secret gift store. [15] Victoria thought there would be a few things here that she'd like to buy, & she immediately started looking for items of interest. Soon, she found quite a collection of gifts & goodies to purchase! Among these things, were a statuette of famous literary heroine Ruby O'Reilly, a jewelry box in the shape of the Ark Of The Covenant, a rotating desk tray fashioned like a carousel, a set of paperweights shaped like chess pieces, a set of fine china depicting images of famous historical figures, & a wall hanging of a colorful Japanese landscape. After picking out all the things she wanted to buy, Victoria went to the check-out counter to make her purchases. Once she had put all her newly-bought gifts into her shopping bags, Victoria followed the Baker Street Family out of the mall, & to their next outing location.

A little later in the day, Olivia, ArdenCousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, & Fidget were playing a game of "Explorers" on the park green, not too far away from the Black Forest. (As we have described to you before, the Black Forest was a deep, dark "forest" made of large, thick bushes with gnarled, dark-gray branches & blackish-green leaves that were closely crowded together, blocking out the sunlight that would otherwise filter through them.) Olivia climbed up onto a great big rock, before standing proudly upon it as she struck a heroic pose, & cried adventurously, "All right, explorers! As leader of today's expedition, I decree that we shall venture where no mouse, rat, bat, squirrel, or shrew has gone before!"

"Which would be...?" Cousin Timmy asked, prompting Olivia to suddenly break out of game character, & look down at her addressee. Cousin Timmy stood with Arden, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, & Fidget at the base of the rock; all three rodentlings were looking up at Olivia curiously, awaiting to hear further instructions from their self-appointed "leader".

Up on the rock, Olivia looked back up with a blank stare, not quite sure what to say in response...but, then, an idea came to her! With said idea fresh on her mind, Olivia cleared her throat softly into her right fist, & quickly returned to her role of the adventurous explorer. Back in character, the little Scotsmouse pointed to her planned destination, & answered, "We shall venture into...the deep, dark, scary Black Forest!"

"Oooooooh..." Arden, Ratigan, Fidget, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, & Cousin Samantha muttered in unison, sporting looks of great interest & fascination on their faces. This game of "Explorers" was going to be very intriguing, that was for certain!

"Which of you brave & fearless voyagers will join me in my quest?" Olivia called out adventurously to her sister, cousins, & surrogate siblings. When Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, & Fidget all raised their paws in reply, Olivia smiled, pleased with the other kids' decision to accompany her on her adventure. "Excellent!" Olivia shouted merrily as she stood firm in her heroic pose, her figure dramatically backlit by the sun. Pointing to the Baker Street Kids' nearby "playground", & turning her head to gaze with a determined glare in that direction, Olivia exclaimed, "Now, let's sally forth, explorers! The dangers & wonders of the Black Forest await us!" With an eager smile on her face, Olivia jumped down off of the great rock, then fell to the ground, before landing swiftly on her feet with Arden, Ratigan, Fidget, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, & Cousin Samantha. The other kids all watched as Olivia ran off in the direction of their destination, crying out, "Tally-ho!"

Arden, Fidget, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, & Ratigan immediately followed Olivia, & within a few short seconds, the Baker Street Kids approached the entrance to the Black Forest. Using his mighty strength, Ratigan pulled back some of the branches to make way for Olivia, Arden, Timmy, Tina, Ursula, Arden, & Fidget. After watching his younger siblings go into the forest, Ratigan followed them inside, letting the branches snap shut behind him like the doors of a gate being slammed closed. Alone to fend for themselves in this eerie environment, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, & Fidget traveled together through the darkness of the Black Forest. The other kids were looking around warily as they trailed closely behind Olivia, who marched through the woods with a confident stride & a fearless, adventurous expression. "Uh, Livvy...are you sure this is a good idea?" Cousin Samantha asked timidly, not liking the look of her sinister, shadowy surroundings.

"Of course, it is!" Olivia replied optimistically. "Explorers always know what they're doing!"

"Yeah, sure!" Fidget agreed with a nervous chuckle & a toothy, anxious grin. The little bat's grin soon faded, however, & he didn't look very convinced of his sister's words. "Right..." And, so, Olivia, Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, Cousin Samantha, Ratigan, & Fidget continued walking through the Black Forest. The deeper they traveled into the woods, the other kids looked increasingly nervous & scared, & Olivia gradually looked less & less confident. Maybe, this wasn't the best idea after all, Olivia thought.

It had been about an hour since the Baker Street Kids entered the Black Forest. Now, as they stopped in the middle of a small clearing, Olivia was getting quite worried. Ratigan was bored & ticked-off. Arden, Fidget, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, & Cousin Samantha were absolutely terrified. As the nail-biting Arden; the glaring Ratigan; the shivering Fidget, Cousin Ursula, & Cousin Samantha; the wide-eyed, thumb-sucking Cousin Timmy; & the hair-twirling Cousin Tina stood behind her, Olivia looked around nervously, no longer sure of what to do or where they should go. "Livvy...Are we lost?" Fidget asked as he shook & shivered fearfully, with his teeth chattering every few seconds.

"Ummm...no...I just need to find another shortcut to that...place...we were at...earlier..." Olivia replied, still looking around the Black Forest with that same nervous expression as before.

Ratigan glowered angrily at Olivia, already unimpressed with her failed attempts to lead them out of the Black Forest, & now having to deal with the frustration of her efforts to convince them that she was still sure of what she was doing! "We're lost, aren't we?" Ratigan asked flatly.

"W-W-We're not lost, Ratigan," Olivia said with a gulp, still looking around timidly as she tried vainly to find an exit path. "We're..." (Ratigan sighed, & rolled his eyes.) "Well, we're..." (Ratigan slapped his paw to his forehead in irritation, shaking his head to & fro.) "We're just...a little...misguided..."

Now at the boiling point, Ratigan suddenly stopped shaking his head, & threw out his arms with an exasperated scream. Bending down over Olivia & poking her nose thrice with his forefinger to punctuate the words of her name, Ratigan snapped, "Olivia Emily Flaversham..." Then, Ratigan swiftly, suddenly loomed over a wincing Olivia, glaring at the mouseling with wild, crazed eyes & a primeval look of anger on his scarlet-red face, as his gloved hands quivered violently in front of his chest, & his fingers curled into the shape of gnarled claws. As he did all this, the reformed rogue yelled with rage, "If you haven't the foggiest idea where the bloody heck we are, then just say so!"

Ratigan looked like he was about to strangle Olivia if she didn't give him a straight answer—so great was his fury & frustration! [16] Not wanting to get on her brother's bad side, Olivia finally came clean (albeit with some reluctance) about their situation. "Um...We're lost," Olivia admitted.

When Olivia made this critical confession, Fidget gazed at his sister with a panicked stare, & pointed an accusatory finger at her, as he exclaimed, "I knew it! I knew we were lost da whole time! And you lied to us, & said you knew where we were goin'!" Doing an exaggerated imitation of Olivia, Fidget ranted mockingly, "Oh, explorers always know what dey're doin'! Dey know where dey're goin'! Blah-blah-blah...We can find our way out of here! I just know da exit's dat way!"

"Well, I did...for a while, anyway," Olivia said sheepishly.

"Nice recovery, sis!" Arden said blankly.

"So you admit it was a bad idea?" Cousin Ursula asked Olivia.

"And, now, we're stuck here!" Fidget griped, extending his wings out & letting them drop down by his sides, as he glared angrily at Olivia. Still glowering at the Glaswegian girl, Fidget stomped over to Olivia, & stood toe-to-toe with her as he poked her on the nose with his forefinger, & admonished, "You are gonna be soooo grounded when Basil & da grownups find us!" Fidget then sharply turned away from Olivia, tossing his wings up into the air in irritation, as he added, "If dey find us..."—he let his wings droop down at his sides again, signaling his surrender to whatever fate would await the Baker Street Kids—"...which I doubt!" Fidget stuffed his webbed hands into his trousers pockets, & trudged off to his earlier spot, sulking bitterly all the while.

Olivia watched Fidget walk away with a concerned look, before turning to face her cousin & brothers. Ratigan & Fidget still glared furiously at Olivia, while Arden, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, Cousin Ursula, & Cousin Samantha stared in the mouseling's direction with eyes wide as saucers (still biting her nails, sucking his thumb, twirling her hair, & shivering respectively) & not really looking at her. Nevertheless, Olivia tried to encourage the others, hoping to bring their spirits back up. "Don't worry!" Olivia declared. "We'll get out of the Black Forest! We just need to keep trying to find an exit!"

"Olivia, we've been searching for an exit for over an hour!" Ratigan remarked. "I'd rather we not search anymore, unless you want us all to keel over from exhaustion!"

"Then what do you suggest we do, Ratigan?" Olivia asked, glaring at her surrogate sibling as she placed her paws on her hips.

"Wait," Cousin Tina replied simply. "Wait & hope that somebody will come find us." Terrified at the thought of never being found again, Olivia & the other Baker Street Kids stared off into space, clueless as to how they would find their way out of this place. Worried & dejected, the nine youths stood in the desolate, lonely clearing in the center of the Black Forest, hoping that the grownups would be able to figure out what happened to them, & find them before the cloak of night's darkness fell over the city.

Not too long afterward, Basil, Victoria, Hiram, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson were at the area of the park green where the Baker Street Kids were playing earlier. The adults were looking around vainly for the children, & crying out for them. "Olivia...Arden...Timmy...Tina...Ursula...Samantha..." Hiram called out with a paw cupped to his mouth.

"Wee ones, where are you?" Mrs. Judson asked.

"Children, it's time to go!" Dr. Dawson declared.

"Ratigan? Fidget? Timmy? Tina? Ursula? Arden? Olivia? Samantha? Where are you?" Victoria inquired. When no one answered, the former princess sighed, & wondered to herself, "Oh, where could they be?" Her mind racing with worry, Victoria walked over to Basil, who was at the base of the great big rock. As he peered through his magnifying glass, Basil was stooping down over four different sets of foot impressions that had been made into the grass. After joining Basil at his side, Victoria stooped down over the footprints, & gazed at them curiously. "What are you looking at, Basil?" Victoria asked.

Continuing to scrutinize the instep indentations he had found, Basil replied, "These sets of footprints right here. They were made into the grass approximately an hour ago." Enlarging each group of footprints with his magnifying glass as he mentioned them, Basil continued, "You'll notice that each set was formed by 4 pairs of black Mary Jane shoes, patent-leather, size 3...suede tuxedo shoes, also size 3, with a small buckle on their fronts...bare paws...black boots of nondescript style, patent-leather, size 2...& a floppy leather shoe, approximately size 7, with a wooden peg-leg. These are definitely the children's footprints. But for some reason, I'm having trouble figuring out exactly where they lead."

Victoria & Basil both looked up at one another, then down at the footprints again. Then, much to Basil's shock & surprise, Victoria suddenly got down onto her hands & knees; she subsequently proceeded to crawl away from Basil, gazing closely at the footprints as she followed their trail across the green. Basil immediately followed after Victoria, trying to catch up with her. Totally bewildered as to what his lady friend was up to, Basil asked, "Victoria, what on Earth are you doing...?"

After scrutinizing the shoe impressions for a bit more, Victoria swiftly hopped up onto her feet, & pointed in the direction that the Baker Street Kids' footprints were going. As she gestured yonder (with Basil following her gaze), Victoria cried, "The sets of footprints lead into that grove of bushes! The children probably went there!"

With that, Victoria took off towards the entrance of the Black Forest, following the footprints' trail. Basil started to run after Victoria, waving an arm to beckon for the other adults to come along as he called out to them, "Hiram, Dawson, Mrs. Judson, follow us! Quickly!"

Within seconds of hurrying to catch up with their friends, Hiram, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson made it to the entrance of the Black Forest with Basil & Victoria. The five rodents didn't look too pleased when they saw that their only way in was blocked by the thick branches. "Oh, drat..." Hiram lamented, his face falling in disappointment. "How will we get in?"

After thinking for a moment, the wheels in Victoria's head began turning. Brightening, she exclaimed, "I have an idea!" Victoria quickly went over to pull back some of the branches, clearing the entryway to the Black Forest. Basil, Hiram, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson smiled happily when they saw that Victoria had found a way into the forest for them. They turned to face her with delighted grins, as Victoria returned the smile at them.

"Oh, Victoria, how clever of you!" Basil praised. Turning back to face the adults with an excited look, Basil motioned for them to follow him into the forest, & cried, "Come along, everyone!" With that, Basil, Hiram, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson all scampered into the Black Forest. Victoria followed them, letting the branches snap shut behind her.

Moments later, Basil, Victoria, Hiram, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson were traveling together through the Black Forest, looking around for the children. (Victoria, by the way, was taking the lead with Basil.) As he scanned his surroundings for any sign of the Baker Street Kids, Basil said, "Hmmm...they should be around here somewhere..." Everyone then stopped walking, & watched as Basil stooped down for a moment. Crouching down on his knees, Basil took out his magnifying glass from his trenchcoat pocket, & looked for the children's footprints...but his face fell when he saw that they were nowhere to be found! A crestfallen Basil stood back up on his feet; Victoria, Hiram, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson watched the detective with concerned looks as he put his paws to his forehead, & gave into despair. "Oh, blast, the footprints have disappeared!" Basil wailed in lament. "How will we possibly find the children now?"

Victoria couldn't believe what she was seeing! You would think that a crimesolver of his caliber wouldn't jump to conclusions like that! the former princess thought in unpleasant astonishment. For shame...He's the Great Mouse Detective, for heaven's sake! He should know better! Glaring irritatedly at Basil, Victoria reprimanded, "A good detective does not rush, Basil! He—or she—looks thoroughly for clues in every possible place, & then makes his judgement as to whether or not he is able to solve the case!"

Not too long afterward, Basil, Victoria, Hiram, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson were in another part of the Black Forest. The branches were beginning to space out a little—a sign that Basil & his friends could be getting close to the clearing. (In these woods, though, there was never any way to be 100% certain...) "Victoria," Hiram asked, "how much longer do you think it'll be till we find the wee ones?"

Unbeknownst to the toymaker, Victoria had picked up on an auditory cue that just might be an auditory clue. Wanting to analyze the potential lead further, Victoria shushed Hiram, then put a paw to her cocked ear. Basil, Hiram, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson did the same as their ears tuned in to the faint sound of sniffling & crying. The adults all listened to the noise for a while, then looked at one another, wondering what to make of it. Victoria was the first to realize the significance of the strange sound, & she told her colleagues of the careful conclusion she came to: "They can't be too far away! Come on!" Victoria beckoned for Basil & the others to follow her, & they all ran off in the direction that the sound was coming from.

In the clearing, Olivia, Arden, & Cousin Samantha were sitting down on the ground, sniffling & crying into handkerchiefs that Ratigan provided for them. Fidget was on the verge of tears himself, & Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Ursula were lying on the ground in a fetal position. Basil, Victoria, Hiram, Dr. Dawson, & Mrs. Judson rushed into the clearing, looking happy & excited as they saw the Baker Street Kids, & went over to greet them. "Olivia! Arden! Timmy! Tina! Ursula! Samantha!" Hiram exclaimed happily. "We found you!"

Olivia, Arden, & Cousin Samantha (still with tears falling down their faces) sniffled & looked up after they heard Hiram calling out to them. The once-melancholy younger Scottish mouseling burst into a wide smile, & cried cheerfully, "Daddy!"

"Dad!" Arden called out.

"Uncle Hiram!" Cousin Samantha exclaimed excitedly.

Hiram scooped his niece & daughters up into his arms, & gave them a great big hug. As Arden, her sister, & one of their cousins returned her father's embrace, & cuddled him, Arden said, "Oh, Daddy, we thought we'd lost you forever!"

"We were playing explorers, and we got lost in the forest." said Olivia, embracing Hiram.

"So you're not mad at us?" Cousin Samantha asked with a concerned look on her face.

Hiram kissed Olivia, Arden, & Cousin Samantha on each cheek, & petted the fur on each side of their faces, as he replied reassuringly, "Not at all, baby! Victoria & Basil helped us find exactly where you were!" Delighted with the news, Olivia, Arden, & Cousin Samantha smiled up at Hiram, then hugged him again, happy to be safely back with their loved ones.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Judson & Dr. Dawson went over to Fidget, Cousin Timmy, Cousin Tina, & Cousin Ursula (the latter three who were still in the same fetal position as earlier). "Timmy! Tina! Ursula! Fidget!" Dr. Dawson said, as he approached the four rodentlings with a happy heart & a smile of relief.

"Thank goodness you're all right!" Mrs. Judson exclaimed ecstatically, picking Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina up into her arms, & cradling them tenderly. When Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina didn't respond to her voice, Mrs. Judson grew a little concerned. "Timmy? Tina?" the mousekeeper asked, looking down to see if the twins were all right. To her assurance, Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina had simply fallen asleep; the Flaversham twins were snoring lightly as they dozed & dreamed, their slumber appearing to be a very peaceful one. Glad to see that her earlier worries were unjustified, Mrs. Judson chuckled, then reached out a paw to lift up Cousin Timmy's brown cap, & tousle his fur-hair.

"It's a good thing you had Victoria to help you out, Basil!" Ratigan said with a smile. "Otherwise, it might have taken you a bit longer to find us."

Basil turned to look at Victoria, who smiled humbly at him as she struck a coy pose. "Yes...I should like to thank you, Victoria, for your assistance," the detective declared.

"It's no problem at all, Basil," Victoria replied sweetly, as she took Basil's chin in her paw...& kissed him on the nose. Totally disarmed by this gentle gesture, Basil could see little images of hearts dancing in front of his eyes as he moaned a bit, & fainted to the ground. The caped crimefighter had a feeling that he just been bitten by the love bug, & who knew what would become of the Great Mouse Detective if this delightful disorder continued to take hold of his heart?

After leaving Regents Park, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to a dance hall on the mouse road of Joplin Street (known to us humans as Drummond Street). It was still late in the afternoon, & Basil & his companions had some time left to kill before they went to the last of their outing places. The dance hall was a grand ballroom with a very large mahogany floor, giant brightly-painted walls decorated with beautiful paintings & other decorations, & an elegant domed roof supported by columns & flying buttresses. Crystal chandeliers dangled from the ceiling, fancy furniture & exotic plants lined the bottom of each wall, & a big stage dominated one side of the building. On this stage, a small orchestra provided music for all the guests to dance to. Victoria & the members of the Baker Street Family all had a great time dancing with each other. At one point, Olivia (wearing her royal light yellow ball gown with the matching shoes, silk gloves, bloomers, & hair-bow, along with the gold tiara & necklace) danced with Basil. "This is so much fun!" the little Scotsmouse exclaimed ecstatically.

"It sure is, Olivia!" a beaming Basil replied, picking Arden up by the underarms, & spinning her around (much to her delight). When he set his other goddaughter back down on the ground, Basil danced with Arden (wearing her royal fuchsia ball gown with the matching shoes, silk gloves, bloomers, & hair ribbon, along with the gold tiara & necklace); it really was a lovely, heartwarming sight seeing the mouse world's greatest supersleuth bonding with a child he had come to care so deeply about. Of course, the fun didn't stop there..."Hey, nonny-nonny, hey, nonny-nonny, ha-cha-cha!" Basil chanted cheerfully, doing a bouncy, buoyant triple-step with Arden.

"You're funny, Basil!" Arden said with a giggle, before letting her godfather engage with her in a curious fusion of a waltz & a tango, followed by other dances.

At the same time, Mrs. Judson was dancing with Fidget...or, rather, trying to dance with him. Truth be told, Fidget had never been a very good dancer—well, not since he received his peg-leg, anyway—& although he agreed to dance with his family members out of politeness, he wasn't too keen on the idea of carrying on with the charade for much longer, for fear that he might make a fool out of himself. "I don't know if I can do dis," Fidget muttered nervously.

"Sure you can, Fidget!" Mrs. Judson exhorted encouragingly. "You just need to practice! One can dance with a prosthetic, you know!"

"Yeah, dat's true, but still...I'm not exactly da most graceful guy in Mouse London," Fidget admitted.

"No more excuses, Fidget!" Mrs. Judson scolded playfully. "Now, let's boogie-oogie-oogie till we just can't do it no more!" And, so, Fidget & Mrs. Judson proceeded to dance together. As the two rodents tripped the proverbial light fantastic, Fidget gradually felt his anxiety slipping away, as he adjusted to the rhythm & pace of the music. With each passing minute, Fidget found it easier & easier to follow the dance steps that Mrs. Judson was doing, &—much to his great delight—he discovered that the use of his peg-leg didn't really hinder his dancing abilities after all! Of course, if he wanted to impress comely young ladies like his friend Cecelia Green, he would still need to practice, perfect, & polish his skills...but now that Fidget had gotten his confidence back, he was sure he could do those things without any problem!

"Thanks a lot, Mrs. Judson!" Fidget told his friend with heartfelt gratitude. "I owe you one!"

A short time later, Ratigan danced Cousin Ursula while Cousin Samantha with Hiram. "I say, Ratigan," Cousin Ursula complimented, "you're a very excellent dancer!"

"Thank you," Ratigan replied humbly.

"Say, Uncle Hiram," Cousin Samantha asked her uncle. "Might Ratigan ask you a question?"

"Of course!" Hiram answered amiably. "Go right ahead!"

"Very well," Ratigan said, his expression & tone now becoming more solemn in nature. "I know that I have done unspeakable things in my past, & I have done irreparable damage to the lives of many innocent rodents. Back in my dark days, I was quite proud of what I did...I was happy when I hurt other fursons. Now that I've seen the error of my ways, though, I really want to make amends with those rodents who I've wronged. And, so, with a humble heart, I ask of you & your loved ones...Do you forgive me for what I've done to you?"

"Ratigan," Hiram responded with a sincere smile, "the moment I realized that you had truly turned over a new leaf, I knew that you would feel remorseful about your past actions. We can't turn back the clock, Ratigan. We can't change what's already been done...but we can strive to do the best we can while we're living in the present, so that our future shines more brightly than anything that preceded it. And since you've done so much to make up for your past misdeeds, how can anyone deny the truth of your transformation? You really have changed for the better, Ratigan...& while I certainly can't forget the things you've done, I can bring it in myself to forgive them...&, thus, I forgive you."

"Thank you so much, Hiram," Ratigan said warmly. "I sincerely appreciate your kindness."

"Well done, Ratigan." said Cousin Samantha.

"That was so polite." agreed Cousin Ursula.

Meanwhile, Victoria was dancing with Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina. The three mice were having a blast together as they whirled & twirled across the floor of the dance hall! "Say, Timmy," Victoria asked the younger boy, "what do you think about living with Basil & the others?"

"I think it's pretty great so far," Cousin Timmy confessed. "And you?"

"Likewise," Victoria agreed. "Although I mustn't forget my poor sister at Buckingham Palace...Did you know she has three children? I've got a niece & two nephews who I haven't even met yet! I feel so ashamed that I haven't made contact with Mousie by now..."

"It's OK, Victoria," Cousin Tina assured her friend. "Uncle Basil's taking care of everything for you! He told me, my brother, & our cousins he's dropping hints to the Queen that you're alive & well...but he wants to wait a little while before he tells her the whole story."

"Oh?" Victoria queried quizzically. "Why is that?"

"Basically," Cousin Timmy explained, "when you left the Chez Chic, & moved in with us, you went through a big life change. Uncle Basil thought sending you to Buckingham Palace right away would be too overwhelming for you on a psychological level, since we're the first friends you've ever really had in a long time, & we've been spending all this time together."

And Cousin Tina said, "He thought it was just best for everyone to wait until you felt like you were ready to move back to the palace." [17]

"Truth be told, I don't know if I'm ready, my dear children," Victoria worried. "I've spent so much of my life as a commoner, & I've become so accustomed to an ordinary lifestyle...Besides, I really love living with you & the Baker Street Family, & I greatly enjoy your company! But at the same time, I miss my family & friends at Buckingham Palace...I miss being loved & admired by my people...I miss my old existence! Oh, I don't know what I'm going to do with the rest of my life..."

"Don't worry, Vicky," Cousin Tina encouraged. "You've got plenty of time to figure out what you wanna do. Just breathe easy, & take everything a step at a time."

"That's very good advice, Tina," Victoria said, now feeling much better. "I'll be sure to keep it in mind every day."

After she was finished dancing with Cousin Timmy & Cousin Tina, Victoria went over to dance with Basil. "Mind if I cut in?" the former princess asked with a coy, catty grin.

"Not at all, Victoria!" Basil proclaimed pleasantly. "In fact, I'd be delighted if you joined me!" With that, Basil & Victoria proceeded to waltz with each other, gliding across the ballroom floor like a joined pair of leaves whirling wildly in the autumn wind. As he danced with Victoria, Basil realized that he had never really been this close to her before. Never before had he noticed how soft her fur was, how delicate her fingers were, how lovely her violet eyes were, how beautiful her auburn hair smelled...Steady on there, Basil, old boy! the detective gently reprimanded himself. These matters should be handled quite...Oh, who am I kidding? I can't deny it anymore! I don't just have feelings for Victoria, I think I'm actually falling in love with her!

It was now early in the evening, & after leaving the dance hall, the Baker Street Family & Victoria went to their final outing location—the British Playhouse, scenically located at Lower 739 Trestletree Lane. Our pint-sized protagonists got tickets for the next performance of the Playhouse's latest production, & after making themselves comfortable in the auditorium with the rest of the audience, Basil & his loved ones eagerly watched the play from their front-row seats. What was particularly interesting about this stage work, was the fact that the Baker Street Family's good friend Sophocles Braveheart was in the starring role!

(CUE MUSIC: "Overture To The Sun", by Terry Tucker)

At one point in the play, Sophocles (dressed in his regular outfit, but brandishing a rapier) & another actor (dressed as a royal count, complete with outlandishly-lavish attire & rapier) were "confronting" one another, bathed in the glow of a blue spotlight. Sophocles smiled mischievously at the other actor as he circled him, & said slyly, "Ah, Count Wensleydale...You dare to challenge me, Earl Gloucester, who is much more skilled with the sword than you?"

Sophocles pointed his rapier at the other actor. The other actor returned Sophocles' mischievous grin as he drew his own rapier, & pointed it at the artisan. "Yes, I do challenge you, Gloucester!" the actor replied, as the two mice prepared to clash. "I hope you've got a spare set of clothing, 'cause by the time I'm through with you, you're going to need it!" (The audience laughed at this witty remark.)

"Don't worry, Count Wensleydale," Sophocles retorted with a playful smirk. "I've got all the clothing I need."

"Then, let's duel!" proclaimed the other actor.

"Have at you, then!" Sophocles cried out fearlessly. With that, Sophocles & the other actor began their duel. As he "battled" the other actor with his rapier (& vice versa), Sophocles shouted, "En garde! Touché! Cafe ole!" After several seconds of fighting, the duel finally came to an end as Sophocles "defeated" the other actor. The other actor "bitterly" tossed down his rapier, & "sulked" sullenly, while a smiling Sophocles took a few bows to the applause of his adoring audience. Once Sophocles & the other actor returned to their work, the play continued without any further interruptions.

After the play was over, the Baker Street Family went to the mouse street of Lymeswold Avenue (known to us humans as Great Marlborough Street), where they planned to stop for dinner on the way back home. At Lower 963 Lymeswold Avenue, there was a lovely little eatery named Goldini's Italian Restaurant, & Basil & his friends decided to eat their evening meal here. [18] Soon, our heroes were seated at a large table, & dining upon all sorts of delicious dishes, drinks, & desserts from the land of Mouse Italy. "My word, Basil..." Victoria marveled while eating her dinner. "This is some of the best Italian food I've ever had!"

"You'll never find a better Italian restaurant than Goldini's, my dear," Basil asserted in between mouthfuls of munchies. "Except, perhaps, the Merchiorre family's pizza parlor in the South End."

"Ah, yes, the Merchiorres' parlor..." Dr. Dawson concurred, dabbing at his mouth with a napkin after swallowing some food. "That's a good place, too." As they continued eating their dinner, Victoria & the members of the Baker Street Family all chatted about the adventures, escapades, & other experiences they shared in the last few months, bringing up all the new friends, foes, & family members they met along the way.

Once dinner was over, Basil & his companions drove their van back to Baker Street, & parked in the carport of their house. The rodents then went inside their home, & after bidding each other "goodnight", everyone except for Basil & Victoria went upstairs for an early retirement. In the dark, quiet living room, Basil (still dressed in his mouse detective outfit, sans deerstalker cap) was sitting in his red chair, & Victoria (still dressed in her pretty new outfit) was sitting in Dr. Dawson's green chair, her forearms resting on the arms of the furniture. Illuminated by the glow of the fire that was now roaring in the hearth, the two mice were quite happy, though a little tired after all that happened today.

Victoria sighed a bit as she relaxed into her chair, then turned her head to face Basil with a delighted smile, & said, "Oh, Basil...today was one of the best days of my life. I really enjoyed spending time with you & your family on our outings today."

Basil turned over a bit in his chair to face Victoria, smiling sweetly at her. "Well, I'm glad to see you're happy & that you had a wonderful time, sweetheart," the detective replied gently. (In response to this, Victoria continued to smile at Basil, blushing & posing coyly.) Basil then got out of his chair, & started walking towards Victoria. When he finally stopped to stand by his friend, Basil extended his paw to gently take her hand in his, & said, "Victoria...come with me. I want to show you something."

"But what about the others?" Victoria asked, as she rose out of her seat.

"It's all right," Basil replied, as he led Victoria away by the paw. "No need to wake them up." Quickly & quietly, Basil & Victoria tiptoed out of the living room, & exited their house, before taking the next Mousetro tram to their destination.