La Fontaine: More Mice (Wright)

These stories are part of the La Fontaine unit. Story source: The Fables of La Fontaine translated by Elizur Wright (1882).

The Council Held By The Rats 

Old Rodilard, a certain cat,
Such havoc of the rats had made,
It was difficult to find a rat
With nature's debt unpaid;
The few that did remain,
To leave their holes afraid,
From usual food abstain,
Not eating half their fill:
And wonder no one will
That one who made of rats his revel,
With rats passed not for cat, but devil.

Now, on a day, this dread rat-eater,
Who had a wife, went out to meet her,
And while he held his caterwauling,
The unkilled rats, their chapter calling,
Discussed the point, in grave debate,
How they might shun impending fate.

Their dean, a prudent rat,
Thought best, and better soon than late,
To bell the fatal cat;
That, when he took his hunting round,
The rats, well cautioned by the sound,
Might hide in safety under ground;
Indeed he knew no other means.

And all the rest
At once confessed
Their minds were with the dean's;
No better plan, they all believed,
Could possibly have been conceived,
No doubt the thing would work right well,
If any one would hang the bell.

But, one by one, said every rat,
"I'm not so big a fool as that."

The plan, knocked up in this respect,
The council closed without effect:
And many a council I have seen,
Or reverend chapter with its dean,
That, thus resolving wisely,
Fell through like this precisely.

To argue or refute
Wise counsellors abound;
The man to execute
Is harder to be found.

The Cat and the Old Rat 

A story-writer of our sort
Historifies, in short,
Of one that may be reckoned
A Rodilard the Second —
The Alexander of the cats,
The Attila, the scourge of rats,
Whose fierce and whiskered head
Among the latter spread,
A league around, its dread;
Who seemed, indeed, determined
The world should be unvermined:
The planks with props more false than slim,
The tempting heaps of poisoned meal,
The traps of wire and traps of steel,
Were only play compared with him!

At length, so sadly were they scared,
The rats and mice no longer dared
To show their thievish faces
Outside their hiding-places,
Thus shunning all pursuit; whereat
Our crafty General Cat
Contrived to hang himself, as dead,
Beside the wall with downward head,
Resisting gravitation's laws
By clinging with his hinder claws
To some small bit of string.

The rats esteemed the thing
A judgment for some naughty deed,
Some thievish snatch,
Or ugly scratch,
And thought their foe had got his meed
By being hung indeed.

With hope elated all
Of laughing at his funeral,
They thrust their noses out in air;
And now to show their heads they dare;
Now dodging back, now venturing more;
At last on the larder's store
They fall to filching, as of yore.

A scanty feast enjoyed these shallows:
Down dropped the hung one from his gallows,
And of the hindmost caught.

"Some other tricks to me are known,"
Said he, while tearing bone from bone,
"By long experience taught;
The point is settled, free from doubt,
That from your holes you shall come out."

His threat as good as prophecy
Was proved by Mr. Mildandsly;
For, putting on a mealy robe,
He squatted in an open tub,
And held his purring and his breath —
Out came the vermin to their death.

On this occasion, one old stager,
A rat as grey as any badger,
Who had in battle lost his tail,
Abstained from smelling at the meal,
And cried, far off, "Ah! General Cat,
I much suspect a heap like that;
Your meal is not the thing, perhaps,
For one who knows somewhat of traps;
Should you a sack of meal become,
I had let you be, and stay at home."

Well said, I think, and prudently,
By one who knew distrust to be
The parent of security.

(500 words)

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