Emily and Charlotte Mousekin are twins. They live in a hole with their mother and father, 2 sets of grandparents, 29 aunts and uncles and 183 cousins.
Emily and Charlotte don’t like a big crowd. They’re happiest when it’s just the two of them, but with a family like theirs it’s hard to find any privacy. Someone is always coming around to remind them of Poor Little Louisa, their fourth cousin twice removed, who went exploring one day and was picked off by the Barbarians Upstairs.
Emily and Charlotte are determined this will never happen to them. Which is why they stay close to one another at all times, very close, whiskers-to-whiskers or tail to tail. And they are always whispering and giggling, because they are silly mice, and even though they are the heroines of this story there is something you should know about them right now: not everyone considers them adorable.
Their own mother, Mrs. Evangeline Lucretia Davenport Mousekin, thinks they are terribly annoying. And who can blame her? To have twin girls who are always whispering and giggling together is most vexing. And there’s something else Emily and Charlotte do. They speak backwards. You can imagine how that would get on your nerves after a while.
One day — it was a rainy Thursday morning in fact — the two little mice were playing with their cousins, Reginald Murgatroyd and Dandelion Mousekin-Pouncekin, in the playroom in the hole behind the staircase in the house that the Barbarians Upstairs thought was their own.
Emily and Charlotte would have preferred to do anything else, but they were given no choice. “Play nicely,” instructed Aunt Murgatroyd. “Don’t get up to any funny business,” warned Aunt Mousekin-Pouncekin.
The four cousins were playing with a marble. Or it might have been a pea. Or perhaps it was a glass eye from some long-forgotten doll. In any case, it was round. You might not know this but mice, especially young mice, love round things. The little round object, be it marble, pea, or glass eye, was being rolled from Charlotte to Reginald to Dandy to Emily, over and over and over and over and over.
You or I would have gotten bored by now but that’s something else you should know about young mice: they never get bored.
All of a sudden, just as Reginald was rolling the round thing to Dandy it . . . . vanished. This is how it happened: first it was there, and then it wasn’t there. When things like that occur it is quite disturbing. Reginald and Dandy, being slightly sluggish, were only mildly disturbed. But Emily and Charlotte, who are two little smarties, were horrified. Things are not just supposed to disappear before your very eyes.
"Tahw dennepah ?” asked Charlotte.
“I evah on aedi,"replied Emily.
“Siht si dab,” cried Charlotte.
"Yrrrev yrrrev yrrrev dab,” agreed Emily.
Allow me to translate for you:
“I have no idea.”
“This is bad.”
“Verrry verrry verrry bad.”
And it was. Because even below stairs, in the smallest corner of the darkest hole, there must be some sense of order. And a round thing, be it marble, pea or a doll’s glass eye, should just not, all of a sudden, for no good reason at all, disappear.
In her confusion and distress, Emily bit Cousin Reginald Murgatroyd on his right shoulder. Then Charlotte kicked Cousin Dandelion Mousekin-Pouncekin on the ankle.
Reginald and Dandy scampered off to find their mothers, howling all the way, and by the time Emily and Charlotte returned to the family room there was a general uproar.
Eighteen out of their 29 aunts and uncles were demanding an explanation. All 183 of their cousins, including Reginald and Dandy of course, were shouting “Rotters.”
Luckily their father, Mr. Harold P. Mousekin, was off on a field trip that day and their grandparents, always so kind, only went “tut tut tut,” which in mouse language is pronounced “tsk tsk tsk.”
But their mother, Mrs. Evangeline Lucretia Davenport Mousekin, was most perturbed.
“Why were you girls so mean to your cousins?” she demanded.
“Ew era tneconni,” exclaimed Emily and Charlotte.
“Nonsense,” replied their mother, stamping her delicate right front paw. “You are never innocent.”
Emily and Charlotte knew they were in the soup. No amount of denial could get them out of this one, and they couldn’t say a word about the disappearing round thing because — well, to be honest, they did not want to cause pandemonium among the relatives. You know how an Unexplainable Occurrence is likely to do just that.
“Yrros,” said Emily. “Yrros, yrros,” added Charlotte.
“Sorry is just not good enough,” said their mother. And she banished her daughters to their room.
A short while later, Mrs. Evangeline Lucretia Davenport Mousekin softened, just a teeny tiny bit, and came to the girls in their dark little corner.
“Well, here you are then,” she said, and put a plate of cheese down in front of them. Emily and Charlotte were ecstatic. Naturally.
“Muy, muy, muy,” they mumbled, while chewing.
So Emily and Charlotte spent the rest of the day doing exactly what they most liked to do: whispering and giggling, talking backwards, eating cheese, and being alone . . . together.
As for the Disappearing Round Thing, it was never mentioned again, neither frontwards nor backwards, because Emily and Charlotte don't like talking about things they can't explain.