om his keeping. Then we called to the old olive-tree yonder, asking how soon the midnight hour would come; but all the old olive-tree answered was 'Presently, presently,' and finally we, too, fell asleep, wearied by our long watching, and lulled by the rocking and swaying of the old olive-tree in the breezes of the night.
"'But who is this Master?' I asked.
"'A child, a little child,' they answered. 'He is called the little Master by the others. He comes here often, and plays among the flowers of the hill-side. Sometimes the lambs, gambolling too carelessly, have crushed and bruised us so that we lie bleeding and are like to die; but the little Master heals our wounds and refreshes us once again.'
"I marvelled much to hear these things. 'The midnight hour is at hand,' said I, 'and I will abide with you to see this little Master of whom you speak.' So we nestled among the verdure of the hill-side, and sang songs one to another.
"'Come away!' called the night wind; 'I know a beauteou
It truly stuns the mind that the prolific Eugene Field (1850-1895) who is basically known as a writer of humor and children's poetry would turn out a child's morality story so dark and grim that today it would be viewed as literary child abuse.
This is Victorian gothic children's literature at its worst with death and sadness laid on with a trowel. Good children (mice) get to dance in the moonbeams (even if all the moonbeam talks about is death and depression and sounding as if its in the last stages of senility) and bad little children (mice) die horribly at the claws of a cat, especially if they don't believe in Santa Claus.
If you have gothic tendencies and like to read by moonlight with a glass of absinthe at hand while you ponder all things dismal and tragic, then this story will be your version of heaven.
Just remember to be good or the cat will get you.
Or something far, far worse.