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The Linnet's Tale by Dale C. Willard, James Noel Smith, James Noel Smith

In the garden of an English cottage live the lovable, highly literate field mice of Tottensea Burrows -- Peebles Carryforth the Mayor; Opportune Baggs, the inventor; the Fieldpea family with their three beautiful daughters, Grenadine, Almandine, and Incarnadine; the widow Proserpine Pockets and her young son Farnaby; and Merchanty Swift, the bold mouse who becomes the hero of The Linnet's Tale. Brokenhearted when his beloved Pleasings Tatterstraw runs away with a charming French mouse, Merchanty, a daring trader, goes on to become a mouse of means. But when Tottensea Burrows is threatened, he risks everything to rescue his friends and neighbors. In the midst of danger, will he find love again? Full of wit and sparkle and irresistible linguistic inventiveness, The Linnet's Tale delivers pure enjoyment.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743224987
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 03/26/2002
Edition description: 1ST SCRIB.
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.58(d)

Read an Excerpt


I am, of course, a bird. That is beyond dispute. And though some Americans will call me a house finch, I suppose, until the day they perish from the earth, I should like you to know, at the beginning of things, that I refer to myself as a linnet.

Small difference, you might say. House finch. Linnet.

Perhaps. Still, would you be called a house finch if it were in your power to be known as a linnet? No, I thought not. Nevertheless, let's be good friends -- whatever you may call me -- and, though I did wish you to know my position, I shall not bring this matter up again.

And now to my purpose. I should like to tell you about a delightful company of field mice who once lived in a place called Tottensea Burrows and how it came to happen that they all went away. I can only hope that sounds interesting to you. It was certainly interesting to me. But, of course, it would be, wouldn't it?

I was not fully fledged when I discovered the mice of Tottensea Burrows -- or, rather, when they discovered me. That was before Langston Pickerel came to them and well before they knew who he was. But then Mr. Neversmythe came to Mrs. Pockets in the rain and began asking questions about the Saracen dagger. Still, we can't blame Mr. Neversmythe for the way things turned out. And, technically, we can't even blame Langston Pickerel. Technically, it was poor little unthinking Harrington Doubletooth who brought everything down around their ears!

I do hope this is clear. What I'm trying to say is that none of them had the faintest notion there were pirates about. Even less did they expect to be running for their lives from something MUCH WORSE than pirates. But, in the end, they were pleased about it, you see. Running for their lives, I mean. The mice.

Blast! I seem to be mucking this up. It's entirely possible you haven't the slightest idea what I'm talking about. I must try to repair. Let us make a beginning, then, with the geography of things. "Where, after all, is this Tottensea Burrows?" you might ask. Very well. Here:

If you're the sort of creature who keeps to roads and lanes and that kind of business, here is what you must do to reach Tottensea Burrows. From Dollopsford, go toward Lesser Triffleton. Left at the New Road, past Nubbins-on-Stith and left again. If you find yourself at something called Doxmere at the Stoke, you've gone completely wrong and I can only advise you to retrace your path immediately. Say nothing to anyone. Try again in the morning. Otherwise, straight on, watching for a stone cottage with one or two small structures off to the side and a beech tree and some hollyhocks. Tottensea Burrows is there. In the rear.

If you are winged, of course, it's much simpler. Begin at that field of rye beside the weir below those rocks under that cliff overlooking the stone wall which is berried over in the early autumn. You know the place I mean. Fly straight above that patch of timothy next it, wheel to the left just where nipplewort overtakes the hawkweed and on to the rail fence running through that marsh of watercress and crowfoot. Rest a bit in the crack willow, lift over the wood and, right where the hazels leave off, dive 'twixt the two elms, and stop in the beech tree beyond the slate roof. Tottensea Burrows is there. In the rear. As I said.

And it is still there, of course. Boarded up and abandoned it may be and all its inhabitants happily away to where they belong, but if you were of a mind to do it, you could, with no special equipment and simply by creeping about in the right places, see all kinds of interesting things there, even now. (Careful of your step, of course -- the more especially if you happen to be of the larger bipedal type.)

In the lee of that rock sticking up out of the lyme grass one could still find the mossy green roof of The Bookish Mouse, I expect. And under its eaves could be seen the little row of mullioned windows which enabled the bookshop's customers to browse its volumes in glorious daylight, careless of candles and lanterns, and with both paws free, therefore, to riffle a mousebook's pages if they liked.

And if The Man has not spaded up the dewberries for a patch of runner beans as he so often told The Woman he was about to do, you could, in all likelihood, see the thatched gables of Mrs. Pockets' boardinghouse snugged down in the thicket out there, low and well out of the way of things -- though the swinging sign out front that said THE BRAMBLES was somewhat in need of repainting even then. I can't think how it must look now!

If you went amongst the climber vines -- beyond the clematis, I mean -- the part of Swift Mercantile which you could see above the ground would appear so modest and unimpressive that you would have no conception of the vast and sprawling warehouses below. To see them you would need a bit of special equipment, I'm afraid. A lantern, say, and a pinch bar of the proper size should do very nicely.

Armed with those, then, you could see more than Swift's warehouses. Indeed, if you poked about the wisteria roots, you might get a look at the workshop of Opportune Baggs The Inventor. There should be many things for you to see. He left in great haste, after all, and he couldn't take everything, could he? There would be hammers and saws, of course, but, beyond all that, there might be some interesting tinkering apparatus down there: little squeezers and stretchers, for example, or crimpers and crinklers -- jigglers, even -- and some clever little winders and loopers that he thought up one night when he was in bed and almost asleep.

And you should be prepared to see some things in his workshop that you would have no proper idea what they were: contrivances for making square objects roundish, perhaps, or round objects squarish or both of them odd-shaped. Who knows? I've been down there. I saw some very shrewd devices to hold things together and some even shrewder ones to keep them apart. There were implements for smoothing and others for roughing up. He had an appliance over here to straighten a piece out and one over there to make it crooked! Whatever he thought best, you see. It depended.

If you wanted to try out things, his treadle lathe would turn as freely as ever, I expect, and the bow drill make quite a reasonable hole in whatever scrap of stock he might have left lying about for one to be fooling with. But you mustn't think you could try the Mousewriter, of course. It isn't there.

Down the way and under the hydrangea, you could peep inside The Silver Claw, if you liked. It wouldn't be the same lively place one remembers, you understand. No one would clap you on the back and offer refreshment. There'd be no tales of wonderful deeds, no one to speak of Warburton Nines Who Once Lifted A Cat, say, or Merchanty Swift Who Brought The Cheese Trade Down To Earth Almost Single-Handedly. Nothing like that. The chairs would be up on tables, I expect, and all the lanterns out. Still, with the lantern you brought with you, you could see the dartboard if you wished and what was left of the flowers on the mantel shelf -- dry as sticks, certainly, if they were there at all. The kettle behind the counter would be quiet and still and everything covered with an inch of dust, as they say. (Not an actual inch, of course -- a mouseinch, more like.)

Every one of these places, in fact, would now be as quiet and still as The Silver Claw's kettle and covered with dust in its own right. But there was a time, and not so long ago, when Tottensea Burrows was athrive and bustling with this quite splendid little company of field mice -- all of them honorable, generous, warmhearted and as distinct from one another as snowflakes. You'd like them, I think.

Copyright © 2002 by Dale C. Willard

Table of Contents

1Grenadine Learns the Language21
2Tea at The Bookish Mouse31
3An Evening with the Baggses39
5A Look at the Drawings51
6About Merchanty Swift Who Brought The Cheese Trade Down To Earth Almost Single-Handedly55
7The Not Paying Attention Club61
8Poker and Cheroots71
9Something About Me or An Early Mistake in Life and What Came of It79
10The Flying Mouse87
11Unwanted Attentions93
12The Suitors of Grenadine Fieldpea101
13Mrs. Pockets' Difficult Guest111
14The Silver Claw at Night121
15Preparations for a Ball127
16The Tottensea Burrows Midsummer's Night Fancy Dress Cotillion Ball135
17An Unexpected Caller141
18What Farnaby Saw by the Rockery147
19The Turning of the Wheel153
20Tottensea, Bag and Baggage161
21Bad Animals169
22How Merchanty Swift Did Business with Pirates175
23The Hesitation at Lawn's End181
24What Happened at the Bottom of the Steep Decline189
25The New Day195

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The Linnet's Tale 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While it is true that it takes a while for the story to get started, I think the whole idea behind the story is a that we have a long time to enjoy the words. A pleasant afternoon's read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Please disregard the previous reviews I sent in. Thank you in advance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Linguistic inventiveness is for sure, but no story unfortunately. The inciting incident arrives 3/4 of the way through the book, and then the conflict is typical cliche'. Usually a story has an event happening at the beginning that upsets one's world, and then the reader is carried on a rollercoaster ride until the end. Not here. It's not even clear who the main character is! We get descriptions of thousands of characters that need to be followed, who have no direct relation to the "storyline". The author is just spewing his own linguistic superiority to the masses. Bring a dictionary. Great for insomniacs *yawn*