The Conference of the Mice
The Conference of the Mice
Once upon a time there was a large tabby cat. She was brown with dark stripes and had impressively large paws. Although the cat looked rather fierce due to her large size, she wasn't a very satisfactory mouser. At least, her human owners didn't find her to be so. This was rather frustrating to the humans, because they'd hoped the tabby would help free their home from all the mice that raced relentlessly through it.
The cat's owners devised a plan to improve the tabby's mousing prowess. They decided to send her to stay on a distant farm to gain experience and expertise in the field of mousing from the rural cats.
The frisky farm cats took the urban cat into their confidence and shared all of their best mousing techniques and secrets. After a few days, the city cat was ready to try her paw at capturing a few mice. Well, the training had worked. The mice ran scared as this feline spread terror among the multitudes of rodents that lived in the farm's cellar, pantry, and barns.
None of the mice dared go outside for fear of falling into the cat's clutches. With their numbers quickly diminishing, the mouse colony decided to hold a conference in order to figure out a way of stopping themselves from becoming extinct.
They waited until the city cat was away for the day. The tabby's human folks had come to visit and took her for a walk in the fields. Taking advantage of this rare absence, anxious and agitated mice of all ages streamed into the conference room and arranged themselves in a large circle. Although terrorized by the tabby, these mice were confident that they could resolve the matter. They went around the mouse circle, each little creature putting forward a suggestion.
As it turned out, though, none of the ideas were really practical.
“Let's build a giant trap,” one mouse suggested enthusiastically. The rest of the mice weren't so excited and the idea was unanimously vetoed.
Then another jumped up, tail swishing, and said, “What about poisoning her?” At first cheers filled the room, but then the group realized that none of them knew of a poison that would kill a cat.
This went on for some time. Mouse after mouse offered suggestions, ideas, and possible plans. None held any promise. They were just about to give up hope, when one of the smallest mice, wiser than the rest, scrambled to the top of the lantern that shone out over the meeting room. Waving and shaking a sparkling bell, he called for silence. “I believe I have a solution. We'll simply tie this jangling bell to the cat's tail. By doing so, we will always know where she is! Then, we'll always have time to escape. Even the slower and weaker mice will hear her coming and be able to scamper off and hide!”
First, there was an awed silence at the mouse's wise words. Then, a round of hearty applause met the mouse's idea. Finally, all of the assembled mice came over to the mouse and congratulated him on his original and clever idea.
“Why,” said one, “We will tie it on so tightly that it will never come off, no matter how hard the tabby tries to shake it off!”
Another mouse added, “She'll never be able to sneak quietly up on us again! Why, the other day, she suddenly loomed up right in front of me! Just imagine how frightened I felt. Now, none of us will ever have to experience that horrible fright again.”
After the clamor died down a bit, the wise mouse rang the bell again and asked for silence from the group.
“We have an important decision to make,” he announced. “We must now decide who is going to tie the bell on the cat's tail.”
This pronouncement was greeted with silence. Not a murmur could be heard. Finally, though, the silence was broken as first one mouse then another began to exclaim.
“I certainly couldn't do it. I'm just not suited for such a task.”
“Not me. I really don't know enough about a tabby's tail to tie a bell on correctly. I'd worry that it would come off if I were sent to do this job.”
“Normally, I'd do it willingly, but I haven't been feeling so well. I think it might be wise to send another mouse to do it.”
Some mice were more honest and simply expressed fear at the thought of approaching the huge cat.
“Not me! No way! I won't go near that horrible tabby!”
So much for the idea of the wise mouse; it fizzled. It turned out that none of the mice were brave enough to come forward to put the bell-on-the-tail plan into action. So it was that the feline returned from her walk in the fields, and the conference of the mice ended without any decision being made.
The tabby's owners were pleased with her improved mousing prowess but decided — much to the chagrin of the farm mice — to leave her in the country a bit longer to hone her skills.