Although Trick-or-Treating for Halloween is really an American tradition, many English children have adopted it now, including the children here in Chagford. My former cottage, where I lived for 18 years, was located down a pedestrian lane at the center of the village, so many Trick-or-Treaters found their way to my door. But I was never home on Halloween. Instead, a bashful mouse would greet them, with a shy little flick of her long pink tail, standing in the candle-lit doorway of that fairy-tale cottage with its roof of thatch.
The photograph to the right is my only picture of the elusive mouse of Weaver's Cottage. She's wearing her everyday clothes, but she always dressed elegantly for Halloween in a long brown velvet dress. She was known to children of the village as Miss Mouse, and she lived (I explained to them) in my cottage walls all the rest of the year.
These days, in my married life, I live on the outer edge of the village, and only a few intrepid youngsters climb the shadowy, overgrown path to our door on Halloween. Now it's only Tilly, Howard, and I who greet them, for Miss Mouse has long since disappeared; she was last seen, clutching a little mouse-sized suitcase, on the day that I moved from Weaver's Cottage.
A generation of Chagford children grew up with Miss Mouse. (Some even brought her presents of cheese.) I know that they'll carry that memory...and I know that she's still missed. Wherever you are Miss Mouse, stay warm and cozy, and have a good Halloween.
Postscript, summer 2014:
Miss Mouse's cousin, the Dormouse from Alice in Wonderland, made an appearance this summer at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party at the village hall, sponsored by the Friends of Chagford Library in the campaign to save our rural library. He's a very different character than Miss Mouse, and much more sociable....
He then re-appeared at the village carnival, where he was spotted beside the Queen of Hearts and a White Rabbit with a suspicious resemblance to novelist Ellen Kushner.
Who knows where he'll turn up next...?