The Adventures of Cake and Crumb: Crumb arrives and something's afoot
And the next morning, there she was. Crumb the mouse. Brown with pink paws and ears and gold wire spectacles on the tip of her finely-whiskered nose.
Crumb sniffed loudly. "If you ask me," Crumb paused and sniffed again, "something's afoot." Cake would soon learn that this nasal affectation was neither a cold nor allergies, but the way Crumb punctuated her speech, adding gravity to whatever she said.
Cake was rather baffled by this declaration of Crumb's. What can she mean 'something's a foot?' Why, if a thing was a foot, it was a foot, and nothing else. He had never seen anything else be a foot. Still, he maintained it was best to be agreeable with a new friend, so he responded "Ah, that's exactly what I've been thinking my good friend! Exactly what I've been thinking! The question is what. I'm sure I don't know!" he added humbly.
"Oh-ho, now don't you?" Crumb sniffed even more loudly. "Well, no, men never do notice these things, though I should think it was obvious to anyone with two eyes in her head..." Here she glanced over at Cake sharply, as if to check that he was in fact blessed with two eyes. Seeing this was the case, she continued, "But then that's always the way with these things, that's always the way."
Cake began to feel just a touch irritated. Not only had he no idea what thing, besides a foot, might be a foot, he had just as little idea of what "these things" were that were so apparent to Crumb. He really felt himself quite at a loss as to how to respond. But being a rabbit of very gallant nature and excellent manners, he first tried flattery. "Ah, well, I always say women know best when it comes to these things. It is their natural sensitivity." Cake thought this last bit was a wonderful piece of inspiration.
"Bless your heart! There's a man for you! Our 'natural sensitivity,' indeed! You act as though I could somehow feel the thing coming, when all one has to do is look around!" Crumb had to sniff several times in succession to adequately express her aggravation.
"I mean to say," faltered Cake, who was very sorry to be making such a poor start with Crumb, and still very much in the dark regarding the topic of their conversation. He felt himself reduced to at least partial honesty: "that I have been really at a loss and when I saw you sitting beside me this morning I thought, 'Ah, now there's the fellow who can sort this out! Now I shall get to the bottom of whatever is a foot!"
"Oh, you'd like to me to spell it out for you, ey? Well, perhaps you've never seen this type of going-on before. You're young, you're young."
Cake had to work very hard to stop himself correcting Crumb on this point, as he did know for a fact that despite her spectacles and cardigan and spot of grey whiskers, Crumb was indeed the younger of the pair and could not possibly have ever seen this type of 'going-on' herself, having been made by the Lady only yesterday. But there would be plenty of time to sort that out later, when Crumb might be in a more agreeable mood.
Crumb climbed up onto an empty wooden spool in order to be closer to Cake's ear. She lowered her voice confidentially and sniffed. "Between you and me, Cake, I don't believe the other animals have noticed, either, so you needn't feel badly. I've seen things in my life; yes, I've seen many things. So you may be forgiven for not spotting the signs. Yes, you'd be forgiven. But look there, Cake. See that bag over there with the pink tissue coming out of it? Can you read what it says?" Here Crumb pushed her glasses back from her nose and squinted at the bag.
Cake's reading skills were still very elementary, but he recognized one of the words and in his relief to finally offer some assistance, he recovered some of his usual bluster, "Ah, the first word, as I'm sure you know, my good friend, is 'new.' A word which I'm sure you know means 'not having existed before,' much like you did not exist until last night."
Crumb's eyes opened very wide at this last remark, and she sniffed so vehemently she very nearly fell off her spool. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean by that, Cake! I think you must have taken leave of your senses! Not exist! Why, I'd lived three lifetimes over before you ever came into this world! I see the wool isn't drawn too tightly between your ears!"
Cake, though he knew he wasn't mistaken about Crumb's beginnings, was nonetheless humbled by this scolding. His fine ears drooped down over his cheeks as he apologized, "I didn't mean to offend, I didn't mean to say.... I only meant to say that I thought ..... but then I must have been mistaken."
Crumb looked slightly softened and Cake raised his ears a little and offered, "The second word is spelled B-A-B-Y. I don't know what that means but I'm sure you do, my very wise friend?"
Crumb's eyes looked away, as if into the distance, and Cake could see she was no longer angry. "Yes, I know all too well what it means. The word is 'Baby' and it means milk and diapers and hushing and shushing and most of all, crying, at all times of day and night. It means the Lady will be tired and the Man will be anxious and the Baby will just be the Baby and it will cry and eat and sleep and not pay attention to anyone else. And it means no one will think of us again for many months, so we must do our best, Cake, we must do our best, so that when the Baby is old enough to begin to make friends, we shall be her first. It will be many months before she is ready, but when she is, oh, the adventures we'll have with that Baby! You wait and see, Cake, you wait and see! There's nothing in the world like a Baby!"
Now Cake knew that Crumb had seen just as little of the world as had he, but there was something in her tone that made him believe her. Yes, he believed her.