Belling The Cat

A story from Aesop's fables
modified by Lin Stone
for modern children
and Illustrated by
Milo Winter

***

ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED
This is NOT public domain

***

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Once upon a time there was a small hut made of sticks and straw in the forest where a poor woodsman lived beside a fountain of pure water that splattered night and day from a beautiful waterfall.  The hut was poorly made so that when it rained the roof leaked and when the wind blew it had a draft through and through.

The poor woodsman was happy living there in his small hut because it was close to his work and at night the waterfall sang a quiet lullaby that put him right to sleep.  But day by day the poor woodsman grew to dislike the hut more because there was a family of mice gathered there that were eating him out of house and home.

Nothing he could do kept the mice from nibbling at his food so at last the poor woodsman packed up everything he still owned and moved to the noisy city to live with a friend. 

In just a short time the poor woodsman began to grow wretched.  "Why, what is the matter with you?" asked his friend.

"It is so noisy here that I cannot sleep or even think.  In my little hut in the the woods my waterfall sang a quiet lullaby to me every night so that I slept peacefully the whole night through.  If it weren't for the mice eating me out of house and home I would still be there beside my little waterfall."

"Is that your only problem?" asked his friend.  "I can fix that.  Move back to your little hut and take with you me, my wife and my champion mouser cat."

"A champion mouser cat?" asked the poor woodsman.  He liked the way those words rolled on his tongue.  "Yes, I think that is what I shall do.  I shall move back to my little hut by the singing waterfall and take you with me, and your wife and your champion mouser cat."

"My wife can make the best cakes and pies and puddings and jellies and jams and we shall dine on better fare than even the king has.  All she asks in return is that we bring her enough wood to keep the stove hot."

"Oh, I can do that," said the poor woodsman.  "That is my trade and the wood shall soon be piled higher than her head so that her stove never draws cool"

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 And thus it came to pass that the poor woodsman packed up all that he owned  and moved back to his little hut in the forest with  his friend, his wife, and their champion mouser cat.   THE TOWN MOUSE AND THE COUNTRY MOUSE 

Soon the little hut was made larger and delicious meals began to be served.  The mice were very happy the poor woodsman had come home again for now there was much more for them to eat.  But there was always the constant dread of the cat pouncing onto the table and unless they saw the cat in time to run for their lives, they disappeared.

Therefore the family of mice lived  in such constant fear of her claws that they hardly dared stir from their holes by night or by day.

At last the mice decided that matters had gone far enough and it was time to insist on their rights.  So the mice  called a meeting to decide on what the best plan to free themselves of their enemy, the cat might be.  But think as they might they could not come up with any way to be rid of the cat short of burning the house down.

"Well, if we can't rid ourselves of the cat then the least we must do is devise some way of knowing when she is coming.  Then we shall have time to run away."

Many plans were brought to the table, but it seemed that every one of them had a bad flaw and was not thought good enough. At last a very young mouse stood before them and said:

"I have a plan that seems very simple, but I know it will be successful. All we have to do is to hang a bell about the Cat's neck. When we hear the bell ringing we will know immediately that our enemy is coming."

BELLING THE CAT

All the Mice were much surprised that they had not thought of such a plan before. But in the midst of their rejoicing over their good fortune, one old Mouse stood before them and said:

"I will say that the plan of the young Mouse is very, very good. But let me ask one question of you: Who will bell the Cat?"

Aesop Says the moral to this story is: It is one thing to say that something should be done, but quite a different matter to do it

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