Once upon a time there was a cat who lived in a large farmhouse in which there was a great number of mice. For many years the cat found no difficulty in catching as many mice as she wanted to eat, and she lived a very peaceful and pleasant life. But as time passed on she found that she was growing old and infirm, and that it was becoming more and more difficult for her to catch the same number of mice as before; so after thinking very carefully what was the best thing to do, she one day called all the mice together, and after promising not to touch them, she addressed them as follows:
"Oh! mice," said she, "I have called you together in order to say something to you. The fact is that I have led a very wicked life, and now, in my old age, I repent of having caused you all so much inconvenience and annoyance. So I am going for the future to turn over a new leaf. It is my intention now to give myself up entirely to religious contemplation and no longer to molest you, so henceforth you are at liberty to run about as freely as you will without fear of me. All I ask of you is that twice every day you should all file past me in procession and each one make an obeisance as you pass me by, as a token of your gratitude to me for my kindness."
When the mice heard this they were greatly pleased, for they thought that now, at last, they would be free from all danger from their former enemy, the cat. So they very thankfully promised to fulfill the cat's conditions, and agreed that they would file past her and make a salaam twice every day.
So when evening came the cat took her seat on a cushion at one end of the room, and the mice all went by in single file, each one making a profound salaam as it passed.
Now the cunning old cat had arranged this little plan very carefully with an object of her own; for, as soon as the procession had all passed by with the exception of one little mouse, she suddenly seized the last mouse in her claws without anybody else noticing what had happened, and devoured it at her leisure. And so twice every day, she seized the last mouse of the series, and for a long time lived very comfortably without any trouble at all in catching her mice, and without any of the mice realizing what was happening.
Now it happened that amongst these mice there were two friends, whose names were Rambé and Ambé, who were very much attached to one another. Now these two were much cleverer and more cunning than most of the others, and after a few days they noticed that the number of mice in the house seemed to be decreasing very much, in spite of the fact that the cat had promised not to kill any more. So they laid their heads together and arranged a little plan for future processions. They agreed that Rambé was always to walk at the very front of the procession of the mice, and the Ambé was to bring up the rear, and that all the time the procession was passing, Rambé was to call to Ambé, and Ambé to answer Rambé at frequent intervals. So next evening, when the procession started as usual, Rambé marched along in front, and Ambé took up his position last of all.
As soon as Rambé had passed the cushion where the cat was seated and had made his salaam, he called out in a shrill voice, "Where are you, Brother Ambé?"
"Here I am, Brother Rambé," squeaked the other from the rear of the procession.
And so they went on calling out and answering one another until they had all filed past the cat, who had not dared to touch Ambé as long as his brother kept calling to him.
The cat was naturally very much annoyed at having to go hungry that evening, and felt very cross all night. But she thought it was only an accident which had brought the two friends, one in front and one in rear of the procession, and she hoped to make up for her enforced abstinence by finding a particularly fat mouse at the end of the procession next morning. What, then, was her amazement and disgust when she found that on the following morning the very same arrangement had been made, and that Rambé called to Ambé, and Ambé answered Rambé until all the mice had passed her by, and so, for the second time, she was foiled of her meal. However, she disguised her feelings of anger and decided to give the mice one more trial; so in the evening she took her seat as usual on the cushion and waited for the mice to appear.
Meanwhile, Rambé and Ambé had warned the other mice to be on the lookout, and to be ready to take flight the moment the cat showed any appearance of anger. At the appointed time the procession started as usual, and as soon as Rambé had passed the cat he squeaked out, "Where are you, Brother Ambé?"
"Here I am, Brother Rambé," came the shrill voice from the rear.
This was more than the cat could stand. She made a fierce leap right into the middle of the mice, who, however, were thoroughly prepared for her, and in an instant they scuttled off in every direction to their holes. And before the cat had time to catch a single one, the room was empty and not a sign of a mouse was to be seen anywhere.
After this the mice were very careful not to put any further trust in the treacherous cat, who soon after died of starvation owing to her being unable to procure any of her customary food. But Rambé and Ambé lived for many years, and were held in high honor and esteem by all the other mice in the community.