Little Effie’s Piece of String
It started with a three-inch-long piece
she found in the garden; we caught her
staring at it, mesmerised. Life went on
(of course) but we saw that soon she
had found more, and - mysteriously -
had knotted them together.
We didn’t know she could do knots.
Then there was the mouse.
We were used to mice indoors
(you have to be, with two cats),
always dead, sometime whole, sometimes
gutted, the head some distance from
the tiny grey body, still twitching -
But this one was different.
It was whole, but something had sunk
almost invisibly into its neck.
It wasn’t the last. We didn’t know much
about string obsessions, but we looked up
Hilaire Belloc and warned little Effie
about the awful fate of Henry King.
But she wasn’t chewing. We thought.
Enough with the mice, we said,
and searched little Effie’s bedroom
silently while she was asleep,
snoring lightly, innocently.
The piece of string was elegantly
knotted, and by now about three feet
long; no longer suitable for mice.
And then we only had one cat;
we were sad, and especially so when we
discovered the corpse. ‘Daddy’, she asked
one breakfast-time, in her delicate
lisping way, ‘How do you do the gavotte?’
We were not sure that was what she meant;
but maybe she was just stringing us along.
The whole poem hinges on the confusion at the end in a small girl's mind between 'gavotte' and 'garotte'. I hope the poem is pleasingly sinister! I have always loved Hilaire Belloc's cautionary tales - maybe this is an updated version.