On a pantry shelf there once lived a funny squatty-looking pitcher-man. His cap was brown and that was the top of the pitcher. His coat was yellow and his vest green.
He was round and fat, as well as squatty, and his legs were short. He wore brown trousers (what there was of them) and white stockings and black shoes.
But the face under the cap was what everyone noticed most; it was always laughing. Oh, I forgot to say that his hands held on to his sides as if he feared he would burst with laughing so hard.
One day there came to the pantry to live a new dish, and when it saw the Pitcher-man it asked another dish standing by why the Pitcher-man was always laughing.
“I do not know,” replied the other dish, “but he never does anything but laugh. I have never thought to ask why.”
So the new dish waited until it was all quiet in the pantry at night, and then it asked the Pitcher-man why he laughed all the time.
“Oh dear! I have to laugh every time I think of it,” answered the Pitcher-man. “No one has ever asked me why I laughed before, and I do not know that I can stop long enough to tell you why.”
But all the other dishes gathered about him and begged him to tell his story, and at last he managed to stop laughing and talk.
“It happened ever and ever so long ago,” he said, “one moonlight night when the house was very still.
“Mistress Puss came in through the door and looked about; then she sniffed, for you see on a platter on the shelf was a nice fish for the next day’s dinner.
“Puss walked along to the window, and just before she jumped up on the sill so she could jump on the shelf I saw a mouse run along the shelf where the fish was and jump into a pie that was cut.
“He ran under the crust and began to nibble and, of course, did not see Puss; but when she reached the fish she gave it a pull and the tail hit the pie.
“Oh dear! when I think of it I just have to laugh,” and Pitcher-man again held his sides while he almost burst with laughing.
“Oh, do tell us what happened!” asked the dishes, so interested they could hardly wait to hear the end of the story.
The Pitcher-man wiped his eyes and then went on: “As I said, the tail of the fish hit the pie where the mouse was eating. That, of course, scared him and he jumped out.
“He landed right on Puss’s head and that scared her so she tumbled off the shelf, the fish on top of her.
“Puss never knew what happened. She thought the fish was alive and ran for her life, and the mouse hustled about helter-skelter trying to find the hole in the wall, for his wits were just scared out of his head.
“Oh dear! it was so funny, and the next day when the cook gave the fish-head to Puss she ran out of doors and cook thought she had a fit because no cat was ever known to refuse fish before.
“But I knew what was the matter, and every time I think about it all I just have to laugh. Ha! ha! ha!”
And that is the reason little Pitcher-man is always laughing. He cannot stop, for he always is thinking about what he saw many years ago one moonlight night in the pantry.