The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 (September 1, 1936)
The People of Pudding Hill — No. 9
[All Rights Reserved.]
“Pumpkin And Castor Oil.”
It was the day following the trick which the seven little Field Mice played upon Johnny Black when they made him believe the scarecrow was a bad tempered old man, who would beat him if he ate tire grass seed on the new lawn.
They were very pleased with themselves, and also very fat through having eaten away all the inside of the pumpkin which had been the scarecrow's head, and as the day was warm and they spent the whole of it chasing about telling everybody how clever they were, it was not to be wondered at that as time went on they felt a little sick.
That evening the other animals of Pudding Hill gathered, as they often did when the weather was fine, to talk and walk about together on the drying green, and it was Miss Amelia, the tortoise, who noticed that the Field Mice were not there.
“I wonder what can have happened to them?” she said, “we see so much of them as a rule.”
“Too much,” said Mr. Tom, “always hiding behind stalks of grass and giggling. They get on my nerves.”
“I expect, you know,” said Miss Amelia, “that they ate too much pumpkin when they were playing with Johnny!” (Johnny Black got very red indeed and shuffled his feet in the dust). “And now they've all got pains in their tummies.”
“Serve 'em right,” said Horace Hedgehog who didn't like the Field Mice because they called him “Spikey.”
“Oh no!” cried Miss Amelia, “poor little things; they don't mean any harm with their tricks and they did help us that time when Johnny Black was shut up in the Butcher Boy's Box,”
“That's right,” said Peter Possum, “so they did.”
“Yes, but,” said Mr. Tom, “if I hadn't made up a rhyme….”
“Dear Mr. Tom,” Miss Amelia smiled at him, “you can run so much faster than I can. Would you go over to the cottage and fetch the castor oil?”
And Mr. Tom who could never refuse Miss Amelia anything, trotted off.
Miss Amelia looked round the circle of her friends. “Does anyone,” she asked, “know where the Field Mice live?”
At this all the animals looked as though they were thinking very hard, but in reality they were not thinking so much about where the Field Mice lived, as why they should bother about the Field Mice at all. To everyone of them the Field Mice had been rude or annoying at sometime or other, and although they had got Johnny Black out of the box, they felt that if the Field Mice went and made themselves sick eating too much pumpkin, it was their own fault. At last, however, Horace Hedgehog, said rather sourly.
“They live in holes I fancy, though which holes, is more than I could say.”
“Well,” said Miss Amelia lightly, “we'll call down all the mice holes we can sec, and we're sure to find them.”
The others agreed to this and Mr. Tom having returned with the castor oil, they set off in a body to find the holes where the Field Mice lived.
Johnny Black flew round in circles overhead and kept a sharp lookout for mouse holes. He was very pleased, that he was able to do something useful like this, because he was a goodhearted fellow, and felt that as the Field Mice had rescued him from the Butcher Boy's Box, he should do something for them when they were not feeling well.
Soon enough he spied two holes not far from the end of the drying green, and whistled to Miss Amelia. She came hurrying up with the castor oil, and called down the holes to see if the Field Mice were there.
At first there was no answer, but presently the other animals who were standing round heard a faint squeak, and very slowly a Field Mouse poked his head out of the hole. And such a sad looking mouse too. Instead of being brown and sleek with bright beady eyes, he was a greenish colour, his fur stood up all on end, and he could hardly keep his eyes open.
“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Miss Amelia, “you do look ill. It's eating all that pumpkin that's done it. What you need is a dose of castor oil.”
So the Field Mouse shut his eyes and opened his mouth, and Miss Amelia was just about to pour some castor oil into him when Mr. Tom said: “Just a minute. Don't you think that if we make the Field Mice well again, they ought to promise to try and behave themselves better and not be cheeky or play tricks on people.”
“Very good idea,” said Horace.
“I think,” said Johnny Black, “that we should make up a rhyme about it, so they could learn it off by heart—and then they won't forget.”
“Very good idea,” said Horace again, and all the others agreed with him, and Mr. Tom and Johnny Black whispered together for a few minutes. Then Mr. Tom came forward and said very sternly to the little Field Mouse. “Now, young man, say this after me twenty times, and then you will get your castor oil, and be quite well again to-morrow.
“I, Thomas Field Mouse, promise tp be good,
And never make rude faces or gobble up my food,
And I always will remember that when I was in pain,
The animals brought castor oil to make me well again.”
But the Field Mouse shook his head. “No,” he said, “I don't want to say that.”
“Alright,” answered Mr. Tom, “no nice castor oil then, and you'll have awful pains all night.”
“It beats me why some of the scientific blokes don't invent a tobacco without any nicotine in it,” he remarked to his tobacconist. “Ah!” replied the weed purveyor, “when science produces tobacco like that the pigs will begin to fly! But why worry? If there's no tobacco without nicotine in it there's tobacco with so little you hardly know it's there.” “Well, I'm blowed!” said the other chap, “What is it?” “Mean to say you've never sampled Toasted?” asked the tobacconist. “No; 'course I've heard of it. Who hasn't? But my usual's black twist.” “Plenty of ‘juice’ in that,” laughed the tobacconist, “why not give 'toasted’ a go? Lovely flavour, and talk about bouquet! Try a tin of Cut Plug No. 10, and you'll stop growling about nicotine. There's precious little in toasted. The toasting works it out.” (Tobacconist's advice taken.) The five brands of the only genuine toasted, Cut Plug No. 10 (Bullshead), Cavendish, Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog), Riverhead Gold and Desert Gold are not only the choicest but the least harmful of any tobacco on the market.*
And as though to prove Mr. Tom's words, the little Field Mouse suddenly did get the most awful twinge, and he clapped his paws to his middle and rolled over on the ground.
Miss Amelia hurried forward with the castor oil, but Mr. Tom stopped her.
“What did I tell you,” he said to the unhappy Field Mouse, “will you say it now.”
“Alright,” gasped the little Field Mouse, and he gabbled the rhyme over and over again until he could say it without having to be told what came next, and then Miss Amelia gave him castor oil, and he felt much better.
Then the animals went on to the next hole, and the next until they had dosed all seven of the sick little Field Mice, and made them promise to be better People of Pudding Hill, in future. But whether or not they will keep their promises when they were well again, I cannot say. Probably they will be just as badly behaved as ever—field mice are like that.