'Rosamunda's High C'

Mousemorency Mouse stood in a velvet hat left by a member of a performance and spoke to a mouseling audience in the Opera House where they lived.

"Today I will speak of another illustrious member in your heritage. Rosamunda Mouseworthy came from a renowned family of singing mice. Mice came from as far as the attic to attend their concerts. Rosamunda was their brightest star. By a month old she had mastered the mousic repertoire, including Mousart's classics. She was slender and attractive with a glistening white coat like a domestic mouse. Her eyes were heavenly blue, not red like domestic mice. Rosamunda's audience adored her and showered her with dainty bouquets of lavender flowers and she loved her fans. But after perfecting her repertoire she longed for musical challenges.

"One night, ignoring her parent's warnings about traps and poisons, Rosamunda explored the lower level of the opera house. Strange, enchanting music floated into her flower petal ears. It drew her as if it were the Pied Piper. Enraptured, she sought the source and found the room it came from. She must merge with those glorious melodies. So, flattening her supple body, she slipped underneath the door into a small, brightly lit room. A young woman sat before a mirror combing long, blond hair, while magical music poured from her throat.

"It was the dressing room of the diva Queen. Maria Von Wicktenburg was singing the Wiggoletto aria she would perform that evening. Rosamond couldn't restrain herself. She sang with Maria while climbing onto her dressing table. When Rosamunda stopped singing, the spell became terror. Maria stared at Rosamunda as she deftly, slipped down an electric cord and under the door, her heart beating wildly.

"The way home was perilous with traps. One snapped loudly as she passed. She jumped and turned aside without seeing another trap. It snapped the tip of her tail. The pain was terrible. While her teeth lifted the clamp, her tail throbbed intensely.

"At home Rosamunda told her parents and her mother burst into tears. Her father said, 'You're lucky you weren't killed. Now poison will be put out for you!'

"Rosamunda restrained herself from venturing out. She sang with the local mouse choir, but longed for the thrill of Maria's opera. One day, carefully avoiding traps, again Rosamunda sought Maria's dressing room. An aria sent wisps of sound that wrapped around her and drew her close.

"Maria was seated before her mirror singing. Rosamund was fearful, but sang boldly while climbing up to stand by the hairpin container. Maria glanced at her but continued singing. Rosamunda followed the new aria beautifully in perfect harmony to the end. Trills and lofty notes aspired to heaven. Rosamunda felt sublimely satisfied.

"Maria looked right at Rosamunda and smiled. 'I am so happy you returned. You have a fine soprano voice.'

"There were almonds on a dish in front of her. Maria put three in her mouth, then offered one to Rosamunda. She dared to accept the nut with her front paws, then sat on her haunches nibbling it. Maria offered another from her palm and Rosamunda cautiously climbed into her palm and took it.

"It began a wonderful friendship. Rosamunda experienced a wealth of new music. Some songs she took back to her choir. The greatest soprano mouse in history was also a teacher of aspiring mouselets. Rosamund frequently walked into Maria's hand and up on her shoulders and Maria gave her sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Rosamund explored the elaborate wigs Maria wore for performances and hid in them to see and hear whole performances.

"One day Rosamunda saw Maria sitting before her mirror putting cosmetics on her red nose. 'I have a cold,' said Maria, 'but I can sing through it.'

"Rosamunda sang energetically in their warm up duet and went on stage in the comfort of the wig. Maria's voice rose above the cold beautifully. Then came the most demanding aria. It had a high C which would challenge any singer. As Maria approached the note Rosamunda detected her hesitation. Then her voice simply stopped. Without pausing Rosamunda sang Maria's grand finale note with ease.

"After this fantastic event Maria introduced Rosamunda to the Opera Company," said Mousemorency. "Everyone was impressed and astounded to know a mouse could sing and so well. Maria pasted two tiny gold paper stars in Rosamunda's ears. The two friends continued to sing together, but Maria never told anyone about Rosamunda's high C."

Special thanks to Laura-Susan Thomas for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit childrensillustrators.com/illustrator.cgi/LSseismiccow.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World