Stuart Little, Page 1E. B. White
by E. B. White
Published by: HarperCollins.Publishers, New York, NY. Further reproduction or distribution in other than a specialized format is prohibited.
by E. B. White
Text copyright renewed 1973
by E. B. White
BOOK JACKET INFORMATION
This is the first children’s book by the distinguished
author E. B. White. Stuart Little, the hero, is a mouse in the family of Frederick C. Little and is a pleasantly debonair little character, with a shy, engaging manner and a somewhat philosophical turn of mind. He is a great help around the house, and everybody except Snowbell the cat likes him a great deal. In spite of his small size, Stuart gets around a good bit in the world, riding a Fifth Avenue bus with some aplomb, racing (and winning in) a sailboat in Central Park, teaching school for a day, and so on. His size—just over two inches— does give him some trouble now and then, like the time he was rolled up in the window shade, or when he got dumped into a garbage scow. But on the whole his life is a happy one. His great adventure comes when, at the age of seven, he sets out in the world to seek his dearest friend, Margalo, a beautiful little bird who stayed for a few days in the Littles’ Boston fern. It is on this search, after several amusing experiences, that we leave Stuart, going north in his little car, sure he is heading in the right direction.
Stuart Little, small in size only, has the adventurousness, the great purpose, and the indomitable spirit of a heroic figure, and his story, funny and tender and exciting by turns, will be read, reread, and loved by young and old.
About STUART LITTLE
and CHARLOTTE’S WEB
“These two titles appear to be headed for literary immortality in our times and are the works for which Mr. White has been awarded the 1970 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. The continuing and almost universal response of children to his two fantasies ... is the real tribute to the real genius of E. B. White. The medal acknowledges and memorializes this fact.”
--Chairman, 1970 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award Committee,
Children’s Services Division,
American Library Association
THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN
“Surely there is no other author whose new book one would reach forwith such sure anticipation. No one else could bring off, so marvelously well, that extraordinary blend of real wildlife and nature and the utterly fantastic. And the beautiful details, the sweetness of relationships—poignant without this time being sad— also make you know that this is the author of CHARLOTTE’S WEB.”
“THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN glows with the primal ecstasies of space and flight, of night and day, of nurturing and maturing, of courtship and art.”
--John Updike, The New York
E.b. White was born in Mount Vernon, New York, in 1899, and went to the public schools there. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921, worked in New York for a year, and then traveled about. After five or six years trying many sorts of jobs, plus a year or two of unemployment, he found work with The New Yorker, then in its infancy. The connection proved a happy one and resulted in a steady output of satirical sketches, poems, and editorials. Many of these were unsigned, and some were published over the initials E.b.w. In 1938 he went to the country and wrote essays every month for Harper’s magazine that were made into the book ONE MAN’S MEAT. Mr. White found writing difficult and bad for one’s health, but he kept at it even so. He would have liked, more than anything, to be a poet. The poets, he thought, are the great ones. He began STUART LITTLE in the hope of amusing a six-year-old niece of his, but before he had finished it she had grown up and was reading Hemingway.
I. In the Drain
II. Home Problems
III. Washing Up
VI. A Fair Breeze .....
VII. The Sailboat Race
VIII. Margalo .......
IX. A Narrow Escape
XI. The Automobile
XII. The Schoolroom 61
XIII. Ames’ Crossing
XIV. An Evening on the River
XV. Heading North
I. In the Drain
When Mrs. Frederick C. Little’s second son arrived, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse. The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way. He was only about two inches high; and he had a mouse’s sharp nose, a mouse’s tail, a mouse’s whiskers, and the pleasant, shy manner of a mouse. Before he was many days old he was not only looking like a mouse but acting like one, too—wearing a gray hat and carrying a small cane. Mr. and Mrs. Little named him Stuart, and Mr. Little made him a tiny bed out of four clothespins and a cigarette box.
Unlike most babies, Stuart could walk as soon as he was born. When he was a week old he could climb lamps by shinnying up the cord.
Mrs. Little saw right away that the infant clothes she had provided were unsuitable, and she set to work and made him a fine little blue worsted suit with patch pockets in which he could keep his handkerchief, his money, and his keys. Every morning, before Stuart dressed, Mrs. Little went into his room and weighed him on a small scale which was really meant for weighing letters. At birth Stuart could have been sent by first class mail for three cents, but his parents preferred to keep him rather than send him away; and when, at the age of a month, he had gained only a third of an ounce, his mother was so worried she sent for the doctor.
The doctor was delighted with Stuart and said that it was very unusual for an American family to have a mouse. He took Stuart’s temperature and found that it was 98.6, which is normal for a mouse. He also examined Stuart’s chest and heart and looked into his ears solemnly with a flashlight. (not every doctor can look into a mouse’s ear without laughing.) Everything seemed to be all right, and Mrs. Little was pleased to get such a good report.
“Feed him up!” said the doctor cheerfully, as he left.
The home of the Little family was a pleasant place near a park in New York City. In the mornings the sun streamed in through the east windows, and all the Littles were up early as a general rule. Stuart was a great help to his parents, and to his older brother George, because of his small size and because he could do things that a mouse can do and was agreeable about doing them. One day when Mrs. Little was washing out the bathtub after Mr. Little had taken a bath, she lost a ring off her finger and was horrified to discover that it had fallen down the drain.
“What had I better do?” she cried, trying to keep the tears back.
“If I were you,” said George, “I should bend a hairpin in the shape of a fishhook and tie it onto a piece of string and try to fish the ring out with it.” So Mrs. Little found a piece of string and a hairpin, and for about a half-hour she fished for the ring; but it was dark down the drain and the hook always seemed to catch on something before she could get it down to where the ring was.
“What luck?” inquired Mr. Little, coming into the bathroom.
“No luck at all,” said Mrs. Little. “The ring is so far down I can’t fish it up.”
“Why don’t we send Stuart down after it?” suggested Mr. Little. “How about it, Stuart, would you like to try.”
“Yes, I would,” Stuart replied, “but I think I’d better get into my old pants. I imagine it’s wet down there.”
“It’s all of that,” said George, who was a trifle annoyed that his hook idea hadn’t worked. So Stuart slipped into his old pants and prepared to go down the drain after the ri
ng. He decided to carry the string along with him, leaving one end in charge of his father. “When I jerk three times on the string, pull me up,” he said. And while Mr. Little knelt in the tub, Stuart slid easily down the drain and was lost to view. In a minute or so, there came three quick jerks on the string, and Mr. Little carefully hauled it up. There, at the end, was Stuart, with the ring safely around his neck.
“Oh, my brave little son,” said Mrs. Little proudly, as she kissed Stuart and thanked him.
“How was it down there?” asked Mr. Little, who was always curious to know about places he had never been to.
“It was all right,” said Stuart.
But the truth was the drain had made him very slimy, and it was necessary for him to take a bath and sprinkle himself with a bit of his mother’s violet water before he felt himself again. Everybody in the family thought he had been awfully good about the whole thing.
II. Home Problems
Stuart was also helpful when it came to Ping-pong. The Littles liked Ping-pong, but the balls had a way of rolling under chairs, sofas, and radiators, and this meant that the players were forever stooping down and reaching under things. Stuart soon learned to chase balls, and it was a great sight to see him come out from under a hot radiator, pushing a Ping-pong ball with all his might, the perspiration rolling down his cheeks. The ball, of course, was almost as high as he was, and he had to throw his whole weight against it in order to keep it rolling.
The Littles had a grand piano in their living room, which was all right except that one of the keys was a sticky key and didn’t work properly. Mrs. Little said she thought it must be the damp weather, but I don’t see how it could be the damp weather, for the key had been sticking for about four years, during which time there had been many bright clear days. But anyway, the key stuck, and was a great inconvenience to anyone trying to play the piano. It bothered George particularly when he was playing the “Scarf Dance,” which was rather lively. It was George who had the idea of stationing Stuart inside the piano to push the key up the second it was played. This was no easy job for Stuart, as he had to crouch down between the felt hammers so that he wouldn’t get hit on the head. But Stuart liked it just the same: it was exciting inside the piano, dodging about, and the noise was quite terrific.
Sometimes after a long session he would emerge quite deaf, as though he had just stepped out of an airplane after a long journey; and it would be some little time before he really felt normal again. Mr. and Mrs. Little often discussed Stuart quietly between themselves when he wasn’t around, for they had never quite recovered from the shock and surprise of having a mouse in the family. He was so very tiny and he presented so many problems to his parents. Mr. Little said that, for one thing, there must be no references to “mice” in their conversation. He made Mrs. Little tear from the nursery songbook the page about the “Three Blind Mice, See How They Run.”
“I don’t want Stuart to get a lot of notions in his head,” said Mr. Little. “I should feel badly to have my son grow up fearing that a farmer’s wife was going to cut off his tail with a carving knife. It is such things that make children dream bad dreams when they go to bed at night.”
“Yes,” replied Mrs. Little, “and I think we had better start thinking about the poem “’Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” I think it might embarrass Stuart to hear mice mentioned in such a belittling manner.”
“That’s right,” said her husband, “but what shall we say when we come to that line in the poem? We’ll have to say something. We can’t just say “’Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house not a creature was stirring.” That doesn’t sound complete; it needs a word to rhyme with house.”
“What about louse?” asked Mrs. Little.
“Or grouse,” said Mr. Little.
“I suggest souse,” remarked George, who had been listening to the conversation from across the room.
It was decided that louse was the best substitute for mouse, and so when Christmas came around Mrs. Little carefully rubbed out the word mouse from the poem and wrote in the word louse, and Stuart always thought that the poem went this way:
‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a louse.
The thing that worried Mr. Little most was the mousehole in the pantry. This hole had been made by some mice in the days before the Littles came to live in the house, and nothing had been done about stopping it up. Mr. Little was not at all sure that he understood Stuart’s real feeling about a mousehole. He didn’t know where the hole led to, and it made him uneasy to think that Stuart might some day feel the desire to venture into it.
“After all, he does look a good deal like a mouse,” said Mr. Little to his wife. “And I’ve never seen a mouse yet that didn’t like to go into a hole.”
III. Washing Up
Stuart was an early riser: he was almost always the first person up in the morning. He liked the feeling of being the first one stirring; he enjoyed the quiet rooms with the books standing still on the shelves, the pale light coming in through the windows, and the fresh smell of day. In wintertime it would be quite dark when he climbed from his bed made out of the cigarette box, and he sometimes shivered with cold as he stood in his nightgown doing his exercises. (stuart touched his toes ten times every morning to keep himself in good condition. He had seen his brother George do it, and George had explained that it kept the stomach muscles firm and was a fine abdominal thing to do.)
After exercising, Stuart would slip on his handsome wool wrapper, tie the cord tightly around his waist, and start for the bathroom, creeping silently through the long dark hall past his mother’s and father’s room, past the hall closet where the carpet sweeper was kept, past George’s room, and along by the head of the stairs till he got to the bathroom.
Of course, the bathroom would be dark, too, but Stuart’s father had thoughtfully tied a long string to the pull-chain of the light. The string reached clear to the floor. By grasping it as high up as he could and throwing his whole weight on it, Stuart was able to turn on the light. Swinging on the string this way, with his long bathrobe trailing around his ankles, he looked like a little old friar pulling the bellrope in an abbey.
To get to the washbasin, Stuart had to climb a tiny rope ladder which his father had fixed for him.
George had promised to build Stuart a small special washbasin only one inch high andwitha little rubber tube through which water would flow; but George was always saying that he was going to build something and then forgetting about it. Stuart just went ahead and climbed the rope ladder to the family washbasin every morning to wash his face and hands and brush his teeth. Mrs. Little had provided him with a doll’s size toothbrush, a doll’s size cake of soap, a doll’s size washcloth, and a doll’s comb—which he used for combing his whiskers. He carried these things in his bathrobe pocket, and when he reached the top of the ladder he took them out, laid them neatly in a row, and set about the task of turning the water on. For such a small fellow, turning the water on was quite a problem.
He had discussed it with his father one day after making several unsuccessful attempts.
“I can get up onto the faucet all right,” he explained, “but I can’t seem to turn it on, because I have nothing to brace my feet against.”
“Yes, I know,” his father replied, “that’s the whole trouble.”
George, who always listened to conversations whenever he could, said that in his opinion they ought to construct a brace for Stuart; and with that he got out some boards, a saw, a hammer, a screw driver, a brad-awl, and some nails, and started to make a terrific fuss in the bathroom, building what he said was going to be a brace for Stuart. But he soon became interested in something else and disappeared, leaving the tools lying around all over the bathroom floor.
Stuart, after examining this mess, turned to his father again. “Maybe I could
pound the faucet with something and turn it on that way,” he said.
So Stuart’s father provided him with a very small, light hammer made of wood; and Stuart found that by swinging it three times around his head and letting it come down with a crash against the handle of the faucet, he could start a thin stream of water flowing—enough to brush his teeth in, anyway, and moisten his washcloth. So every morning, after climbing to the basin, he would seize his hammer and pound the faucet, and the other members of the household, dozing in their beds, would hear the bright sharp plink plink plink of Stuart’s hammer, like a faraway blacksmith, telling them that day had come and that Stuart was trying to brush his teeth.
One fine morning in the month of May when Stuart was three years old, he arose early as was his custom, washed and dressed himself, took his hat and cane, and went downstairs into the living room to see what was doing. Nobody was around but Snowbell, the white cat belonging to Mrs. Little. Snowbell was another early riser, and this morning he was lying on the rug in the middle of the room, thinking about the days when he was just a kitten.
“Good morning,” said Stuart.
“Hello,” replied Snowbell, sharply.
“You’re up early, aren’t you?”
Stuart looked at his watch. “Yes,” he said, “it’s only five minutes past six, but I felt good and I thought I’d come down and get a little exercise.”
“I should think you’d get all the exercise you want up there in the bathroom, banging around, waking all the rest of us up trying to get that water started so you can brush your teeth. Your teeth aren’t really big enough to brush anyway. Want to see a good set? Look at mine!” Snowbell opened his mouth and showed two rows of gleaming white teeth, sharp as needles.
“Very nice,” said Stuart. “But mine are all right, too, even though they’re small. As for exercise, I take all I can get. I bet my stomach muscles are firmer than yours.”