ONCE upon a time there was a troop of Rats that used to live in holes by a river side. A certain Cat often saw them going to and fro, and longed to have them to eat. But he was not strong enough to attack them all together; besides, that would not have suited his purpose, because most of them would have run away.
So he used to stand early in the morning, not far from their holes, with his face towards the sun, snuffing up the air, and standing on one leg.
The Rats wondered why he did that, so one day they all trooped up to him in a body, and asked the reason.
"What is your name, sir?" they began.
"Holy is my name," said the Cat.
"Why do you stand on one leg?"
"Because if I stood on all four, the earth could not bear my weight."
"And why do you keep your mouth open?"
"Because I feed on the air, and never eat anything else."
"And why do you face the sun?"
"Because I worship the sun."
"What a pious Cat!" the Rats all thought. Ever after that, when they started out in the morning, they did not fail first to make their bow to the Cat one by one, and to show thus their respect for his piety.
This was just what our Cat wanted. Every day, as they filed past, he waited till the tail of the string came up; then like lightning pounced upon the hindmost, and gobbled him up in a trice; after which he stood on one leg as before, licking his lips greedily.
For a while all went well for the Cat's plan; but at last the Chief of the Rats noticed that the troop seemed to grow smaller. Here and there he missed some familiar face. He could not make it out; but at last a thought came into his mind, that perhaps the pious Cat might know more about it than he chose to tell.
Next day accordingly, he posted himself at the tail of the troop, where he could see everything that went on; and as the Rats one by one bowed before the Cat, he watched the Cat out of the end of his eye.
As he came up, the Cat prepared for his pounce. But our Rat was ready for him, and dodged out of the way.
"Aha!" says the Rat, "so that is your piety! Feeds on the air, does he! and worships the sun--eh? What a humbug!" And with one spring he was at the Cat's throat, and his sharp teeth fast. The other Rats heard the scuffle, and came trooping back; and it was crunch and munch, till not a vestige remained of the hypocritical Cat. Those who came first had cat to eat, and those who came last went sniffing about at the mouths of their friends, and asking what was the taste of catsmeat. And ever after the Rats lived in peace and happiness.