The Rescue Bell

(After Æsop)

In one large house there lived a community of mice. They used to run around at night in the many rooms and the basement of the house. The food they collected they used to drag into their holes. So, the families of mice had a handsome livelihood and their number multiplied.

For a long period the human residents tolerated the existence and the activity of the mice, but one day a cat was brought to the house, with a clear intention to disturb the peace and the livelihood of the small creatures.

The cat used to keep track of the mice, and on realizing that one of them is alone, he would approach the mouse quietly from behind, as the velvet cushions of his paws hid the sound of footsteps, attack the mouse and devour it on the spot.

One can say that the mice community did now face a security problem. It is hard to conduct normal life, to go from place to place, to bring food home – when you need to look behind you constantly - and in fact, mice did often find themselves between the nails and teeth of their enemy, the cat.

At the request of many members of the community, the elder-mouse convened a general assembly to deliberate, and decide on what should be done about the threat on their well-being.

After the elder introduced the issue, a well-managed discussion started, and several opinions and ideas were expressed.

One mouse claimed that the source of the trouble is the hunger of the cat. He said: "if we take care to allot some of the food we gather for the cat, it will be sated and will have no need to devour." Others objected to this view, reporting that sometimes the cat hunts just for fun and leaves the killed mouse uneaten.

There was a suggestion to work out an alliance with the dog of the house to watch over them; it is well known that he is in bad relations with the cat – and it is an established truth that the enemy of my enemy is supposed to be my friend. This proposal too did not win support. Opponents of the idea said: "We have got nothing to offer to the dog for the protection. He does bite the cat from time to time, but it is better that he does so without contact with us - or it would infuriate the cat and it will devour us even more ".

One enlightened mouse stood up and explained that after all, this security problem is such of rather "low intensity". He noted that the actual weekly number of the cat's victims is not so large; it even does not constitute a majority in the total mortality of the mice – compared to aging, diseases and accidents. Therefore, he recommended both personal caution and putting up with the limited number of casualties. It should be noted that the public did not like this view. Still, they sought a way to overcome the danger.

More mice got the floor to speak, but the problem still remained to be resolved. They kept straining their minds in search for a solution that will rescue them.

Suddenly, a young energetic mouse rose to the floor and said: "I saw in the children's room of the House a toy-bell tied to a ribbon. That bell can be pinched; then someone should just approach the cat while he is asleep, and tie the bell to his neck. From now on, the bell will ring each time the cat moves; Whenever the cat gets behind a mouse, the mouse will hear it coming from a sufficient distance – and he will be able to escape in time.

This proposal was brought up to vote before the assembly, and it was adopted unanimously. Mice delighted that their problem is about to be fixed; they praised the wisdom of their mate who introduced the redeeming scheme, and began to take their leave in good spirit and many smiles.

And then, just before they dispersed, rang out the voice of a kid-mouse – a small one – such who is underage to vote – and all the assembly heard the question: "who would tie the bell on the cat's neck?"

The parents of this cheeky youngster rushed to silence him - but the question remained in the air.

The elder-mouse sent a smile at the kid-mouse; then he said: "this little one is right. Indeed we cannot end this assembly before we conclude this detail of execution. Well, we just have to choose the one to undertake it. I request the candidates for the job to come over and stand here at my side, so that we can elect the one who will have the honor to bell the cat".

He looked around, but no candidate stepped forward. He looked in the audience for the initiator of the adopted proposal but somehow he was not seen. Other mice as well began to depart, and one by one they disappeared into their holes.

The movement of retiring to the holes continued, and soon enough, the elder-mouse found himself alone in front of an empty Assembly.

Standing like this, perplexed and embarrassed, he could hardly tell whether there are some velvet steps approaching him from behind – or not – and once again he will return to his hole in one piece.

 

Retold by Asher Shla'in