Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Hypocritical Cat

In long-past times there was a chieftain of a company of mice who had a retinue of five hundred mice. And there was also a cat named Agnija. In his youth he had been wont to kill all the mice in the neighborhood of his dwelling place. But afterward, when he had grown old, and no longer had the power of catching mice, he thought, "In former times, when I was young, I was able to catch mice by force. But now that I can do so no more, I must use some trick in order to make a meal off them." So he began to watch the mice by stealth. By means of such watching he found out that there were five hundred mice in the troop.

At a spot not far distant from the mouse hole, he took to performing fictitious acts of penance, and the mice, as they ran to and fro, saw him standing there with pious mien. So they cried out to him from a distance, "Uncle, what are you doing?"

The cat replied, "As in my youth I have perpetrated many vicious actions, I am now doing penance in order to make up for them."

The mice fancied that he had given up his sinful life, and there grew up within them confidence nourished by faith.

Now as they returned into their hole every day after making their rounds, the cat always seized on and devoured the mouse which came last. Seeing that the troop was constantly dwindling, the chief thought, "There must be some cause for the fact that my mice are diminishing in number, and this cat is thriving apace."

So he began t observe the cat closely. And when he saw that the cat was fat and well covered with hair, he thought, "There is no doubt that this cat has killed the mice. Therefore must I bring the matter to the light of day."

Now as he kept careful watch from a hiding place, he saw how the cat ate up the mouse which went last. Then from afar off he pronounced this verse:

As the uncle's body waxes bigger,
but my troop on the contrary becomes smaller,
and as he who eats roots and berries
will not become fat and well covered with hair,
this is not a genuine penance,
but one performed only for the sake of gain.
Because the number of the mice diminished,
have you, O Agnija, thrived.

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