A town cat, having destroyed almost all the mice and rats in the place, found itself forced, for lack of prey, to go into the fields and hunt for birds, mice, rats, and lizards. In this time of need it thought of the following ruse.
It stayed away for some weeks from its usual haunts, and, returning, lay down in front of a mouse and rat warren, with a rosary round its neck; then, with its eyes closed, fell to purring loudly. Soon a mouse peeped out of a hole, but, seeing the cat, hastily returned.
"Why do you flee?" said pussy gently. "Instead of showing pleasure at the return of an old neighbor from the pilgrimage, you run away as soon as you see him. Come and visit me, fear nothing."
Surprised at hearing itself thus addressed, the mouse again ventured to the door of its hole and said, "How can you expect me to visit you? Are you not the enemy of my race? Should I accept your invitation you would surely seize and devour me as you did my parents and so many others of my kindred."
"Alas!" sighed the cat, "your reproaches are just. I have been a great sinner, and have earned abuse and enmity. But I am truly penitent. As you see from this rosary round my neck, I now devote myself to prayer, meditation, and the recital of holy books, the whole of which I have learnt by heart, and was just beginning to repeat when you happened to look out of your hole. Besides this, I have visited the Holy Places, so am a Hajji [pilgrim] as well as a Hâfiz [one who knows the whole Koran by heart]. Go, my injured but nevertheless generous and forgiving friend, make my change of life and sentiments known to the rest of your people and bid them no longer shun my society, seeing that I am become a recluse. Whilst you are absent I shall resume my recitations. Purr, purr, purr."
Much surprised at the news he had just heard, the mouse made it known to the rest of the tribe. They were at first incredulous; but at last after one and another had ventured to peep from the mouth of its hole and had beheld the whiskered ascetic with the rosary round his neck apparently oblivious of earthly things, and steadily repeating his purr, purr, purr, which they supposed to be the contents of holy books, they thought that there might be some truth in the matter, and they convened a meeting of mice and rats to discuss it.
After much debate it was judged right to test the reality of the cat's conversion, but to be prudent at the same time; and so a large and experienced rat was sent out to reconnoiter. Being a wary veteran, he kept well out of the cat's reach, though he saluted him respectfully from a distance. The cat allowed the rat to prowl about unmolested for a long time in the hope that other rats and mice would come out, when his prey would be easy to catch and plentiful. But no others came, and at last the pangs of hunger made him resolve to wait no longer.
The rat, however, was on the alert and darted off the instant he noticed, from a slight movement of the cat's muscles, that the pretended saint was about to kill him.
"Why do you go away so abruptly?" mewed the cat. "Are you tired of hearing me repeat scripture, or do you doubt the correctness of my recitation?"
"Neither," answered the rat as he peeped from the hole in which he had taken refuge.
"Neither," answered the rat as he peeped from the hole in which he had taken refuge. "I am convinced that, however much you may have learnt by rote, you have neither unlearnt nor eschewed your habits of pouncing upon us."
- Source: J. E. Hanauer, Folk-Lore of the Holy Land: Moslem,
Christian and Jewish (London: The Sheldon Press, 1935), pp. 198-199.
No copyright notice. This work was first published in 1907.
- Hanauer does not provide a title for this story, but includes it in a
larger chapter entitled "About Animals."
- Aarne-Thompson type 113B.
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