Having spoken, Mr. Longtail walked back into the crowd.
Mr. Graypate arose and said:
“You have heard why we are here. Anyone who has a good plan for ridding us of the cat will please tell of it. The meeting is open to all.”
“Let us all run at him suddenly when he is not looking for us, and each give him a bite. That would surely kill him,” said one brave mouse.
“But how many of us do you think he would kill?” said another mouse. “I will not risk my life nor that of my family.” “Nor I”; “nor I”; “nor I,” said many other mice.
“Let us steal his food and starve him to death,” suggested another.
“That will only make him hungrier for mice,” they replied. “That will never do.”
“I wish we might drown him,” said another; “but I don’t know how we could get him into the water.”
At last a little gray mouse with a squeaky voice went up to the front and spoke:
“I have a plan that will surely work. If we could know when the cat is coming, we could get out of his way. He steals in upon us so quietly, that we can not escape. Let us find a little bell and a string. Let us put the bell on the string and tie the string around the cat’s neck. As soon as we hear the bell, we can run and get out of the cat’s way.”
“A very good plan,” said Mr. Longtail. “We will ask our leader to say which mouse shall put the bell on the cat’s neck.”
At this there was a great outcry. One said, “I am so little that I can not reach high enough to bell the cat.” Another said, “I have been very sick and am too weak to lift the bell”; and so the excuses came pouring in.
At last Mr. Graypate called to the crowd, “Silence! I shall choose no one. Who will offer to bell the cat?”
It was very quiet in the meeting. One after another of the younger mice went out. None but the older ones were left. At last they too went sadly home. No one would bell the cat.
One day the door of a cottage stood open. A tame crow flew through the door into the cottage. She stole a piece of meat from the table, and flew to a branch of a tall tree.
Just as she had settled there to enjoy her meat a fox came along and stopped under the tree. He sniffed something good to eat. Looking about, he saw the meat in the crow’s mouth and wanted it.
How could he get the meat? He could not climb the tree. What good would it do if he could? The crow would fly away when she saw him coming. He could not coax the crow to come down to the ground. She knew what a fox likes to eat.
At last the fox had a happy thought. He said to himself, “A crow is one of the proudest birds I ever knew. I will flatter her and she will forget about the meat.”
So he called out in his sweetest voice, “Good day, my pretty bird”; but the crow did not reply. She only stepped about proudly on the branch.