“If you’re going to do a job, do it right”. I took that on board at an early age and anyway, Cinderella was worthy of the best I could offer.
The next problem was the flight of stairs at the palace. There were a lot of them. St Assumpta never held the book up long enough for me to count them all. I rarely got past eleven before she’d move onto the next page, but at a glance there must have been at least thirty. They were all white and shiny, and laid out in a long curving arch that fanned out and down to the road beneath, where her pumpkin was parked when it was a coach. You could see the pumpkin in the picture too. It sat in the middle of the road at the bottom of the steps, surrounded by a few bewildered mice that looked completely out of sorts with their environment.
I often wondered if those mice ever found their way home after the ball. It bothered me some nights before going to sleep. I reckoned that if Cinderella needed a carriage to go to the ball, that palace must have been a couple of miles down the road from her house. I knew she got home safe and sound, albeit at a mad gallop. The book said so. Clearly a couple of miles of a run was no bother to her. And she was fit too, from all the cleaning and scrubbing and washing floors. But what about the mice?
Mice are pretty fit too. In fact I’ve never seen a slow one, unless Minnie our cat hit it a few swipes first. They eat anything and everything and they never get fat because they’re always scuttling around, full of energy. They’re well able to run, that I was sure of.
My real concern was the distance they had to cover. A couple of miles to the bauld Cinderella would seem like hundreds of miles to a mouse. They’ve only tiny little legeens. Climbing a wall be like climbing Mount Everest so imagine what a two-mile hike would feel like to them? To make matters worse their height did them no favours. They’re so close to the ground a dandelion is like a small tree, a pothole the crater of a volcano, a field of grass a forest. Being vertically challenged also made it impossible for them to see more than a few feet ahead. That must make for hard work on a normal day’s travel in familiar surroundings. A strange place like the steps of the palace must have been terrifying. How could they even begin to find the road home or what direction to take home? It occurred to me that perhaps they could follow the direction Cinderella took off in, but if she took a short cut through a field they could be thrown off track. She was so fast and so far ahead they’d be likely to miss it. If they came to a crossroads they’d be ruined entirely. I’ve never heard of a mouse being able to read a signpost.
I asked Mother if mice could smell their way home, like dogs. I didn’t tell her why but she told me not to be an egit and lay the table. I had nothing to go on.
Those homeless mice were a worry indeed and after much thought I came to the conclusion that those mice got the rough end of the stick. They were left to their own devices.And did Cinderella care? Not a skerrick. She just casts them adrift in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, in the cold, and runs off without them.
If Cinderella was any way decent she should have put them in her pocket as she went past and made sure they got home. They were most obliging to her so it was the least she could have done. What if they had babies? And where was the fairy godmother in all this? You’d think she’d have the decency to cast a spell and make them float home?
You wouldn’t catch Snow White neglecting animals like that, not in a million years. She let birds and rabbits and deer and all sorts into her kitchen and the dwarfs didn’t seem to mind. Mind you, she was twice the size of them so she was likely to get her own way. Anyhow, wasn’t she cooking their dinners and washing their smalls, they’d have been right bloody egits to complain. No. In my opinion leaving the mice behind was a big failure on Cinderella’s part and it might have been no harm if she landed on her head going down those steps for such neglect. But she didn’t and I still had shoes to test.
Next on the agenda were stairs.