|"I shall be your bride, if you will have me."|
An expurgated version of "The Mouse Bride" appeared in one of those fancy magazines a few years back, but folks in Wampus Country know the whole story.
A young man had secured himself a patch of ranch-land - either purchased from someone else, or earned by deed, the story doesn't say - and had maybe twenty head of cattle and a little house he'd built himself. But he was lonely out there on the plain, and wanted a wife. Yet the first snowfall of winter had come and gone, and it was not the season to trek back west in search of a bride.
One night, over a bowl of warm potato stew, the young man was musing aloud about his marriage prospects, when he noticed a little white mouse on the floor, listening to him. He smiled and rhetorically asked of the little mouse, "I'm a good man and a hard worker. I don't suppose you'd be interested in marrying me?" We can imagine his surprise and befuddlement when the mouse spoke, and replied in the affirmative. "I shall be your bride, if you will have me," said the mouseling, "and I shall cook and clean as a wife would, and keep this house." The man thought it over for a moment, and - on a whim - agreed; perhaps he was driven by curiosity, to see this little mouse attempt to cook and clean as a human woman would.
Thus the man and the mouse began to live, in most ways, as husband and wife. While he was out handling the livestock, or digging fencepost-holes, or hunting, she was home, always busy. She kept the house spotless - for, being lower to the ground, she could see specks of dirt which the man would overlook. And she was a very fine cook indeed, preparing all manner of soups, stews, and roasted game. At night, they would sit by the fire; sometimes he would read to her from a book, and sometimes she would sing mouse-songs to him, teaching him the legends of her people.
All was well for several weeks. Then, one night, when the rancher returned home, he found his mouse-wife waiting for him at the door. "My love," she said, "I am sorry, but the jackdaw tells me my father is gravely ill. I must return home immediately, and where I go, you cannot follow." The man was cross, for he had grown selfish in his comfort these past weeks. "Who will cook for me while you are gone? Who will clean this house?" His bride apologized again and again, and swore she would return in a fortnight, but to no avail - the rancher stomped about the house, grousing and cursing. He even cursed her father's name - and that was going too far.
"I cannot abide this dishonor," said the mouse bride; "Though there has been much joy in this house, it is plain you are not the good man you claimed to be, to curse my family so and disrespect my obligations. Our marriage contract is void." And the mouse balled up her little gingham apron and threw it on the ground as she departed. The rancher fumed for several minutes before he threw open the door and pursued her, knowing that although she skittered with great speed, his legs were longer and he was a fine tracker.
The young man tracked the mouse across the ranch, through the corral, and caught up to her at the crest of a hill. "Stop." she said. The mouse informed her erstwhile husband that she had paused on the hillside to see if he was pursuing her, and showed him the small sculpture she had made in the powdery snow. "This is the god of my people; I have made this effigy that I might ask of it a simple question: am I right to leave you and return to my father's house?"
Angered, the rancher curled his lip and furrowed his brow. With a single stomp he flattened the little mouselike snowman, and his bride tumbled backwards in fright. Narrowing her gaze, she said "It would seem my patron has afforded me the answer indirectly." And with that, she scuttled off into the frozen heather. The rancher tried to give chase, even throwing rocks and sticks into the crisp undergrowth in an attempt to flush her out, but it was no use - she was gone.
Still cross, the young man trudged back home, cursing his bride, all mice, and their stupid mousey god under his breath the whole way. When he arrived back at his hand-built house, he opened the door to find a stranger in his kitchen - a huge man in a white suit and top hat, with his back turned. The rancher drew his revolver and commanded the intruder to face him - and so he did. The young man's jaw dropped as he realized the interloper in his kitchen was a gigantic white mouse, over six feet tall, dressed much like a wealthy man; the immense rodent's fur glistened with flecks of rime and snow, and it seemed that its very fur and flesh were carved from the ice - save for a pair of iridescent, unearthly pink eyes.
The creature snatched the rancher by the throat as a round from the revolver caromed off the mouse-thing's chest, not even leaving a tear in the silken waistcoat. With an effortless flick, the young man was tossed onto his own settee, his gun spinning across the wooden floor. The enormous rodent was overtop of him in an instant, preternaturally fast, and looming with an evil glint in its pupil-less eye. As the mouse-beast spoke, cold breeze issued forth from its mouth.
"I shall release you...when she forgives you." And with that condemnation, the creature spewed forth a torrent of snow and blizzard winds, blinding the rancher, who could soon feel his limbs stiffening and his extremities going numb. In moments, the willful young man was frozen - along with his sofa - in a large block of ice. The giant rodent dissolved into mist, like breath on a cold day.
The rancher, they say, is still in that block of ice today, decades later. Some folks know where he is, but they haven't attempted to free him - lest they, too, incur the wrath of the Mouse God.
1) Don't mess with talking mice. They will kill your ass.
2) When considering the destruction of an image of a god, stop briefly and consider whether the god in question is small enough that He might be looking at that very idol right this second.
3) Adult mouse-women, like adult human women, are not likely to forgive you for being a total jackass once they've decided that's what you are.
4) Foolish adventurers who should happen to come upon that shack will probably immediately decide that freeing the guy from the block of ice is a brilliant idea. It is not.
5) Worshipping a giant lab-mouse in a white tuxedo and top hat is pretty freaking stylish, all things considered.