The Rat-catcher and Cats

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Fable XXI

The rats by night such mischief did,
Betty was every morning chid.
They undermined whole sides of bacon,
Her cheese was sapped, her tarts were taken.
Her pasties, fenced with thickest paste,
Were all demolished, and laid waste.
She cursed the cat for want of duty,
Who left her foes a constant booty.
An engineer, of noted skill,
Engaged to stop the growing ill.

   From room to room he now surveys
Their haunts, their works, their secret ways;
Finds where they 'scape an ambuscade,
And whence the nightly sally's made.
   An envious cat from place to place,
Unseen, attends his silent pace.
She saw, that if his trade went on,
The purring race must be undone;
So, secretly removes his baits,
And every stratagem defeats.

   Again he sets the poisoned toils,
And puss again the labour foils.
   'What foe (to frustrate my designs)
My schemes thus nightly countermines?'
Incensed, he cries: 'this very hour
This wretch shall bleed beneath my power.'
   So said. A pond'rous trap he brought,
And in the fact poor puss was caught.
   'Smuggler,' says he, 'thou shalt be made
A victim to our loss of trade.'

   The captive cat, with piteous mews,
For pardon, life, and freedom sues:
'A sister of the science spare;
One interest is our common care.'
   'What insolence!' the man replied;
'Shall cats with us the game divide?
Were all your interloping band
Extinguished, of expelled the land,
We rat-catchers might raise our fees,
Sole guardians of a nation's cheese!'

   A cat, who saw the lifted knife,
Thus spoke, and saved her sister's life:
  'In every age and clime we see,
Two of a trade can ne'er agree.
Each hates his neighbour for encroaching;
Squire stigmatises squire for poaching;
Beauties with beauties are in arms,
And scandal pelts each other's charms;
Kings too their neighbour kings dethrone,
In hope to make the world their own.

But let us limit our desires;
Nor war like beauties, kings, and squires!
For though we both one prey pursue,
There's game enough for us and you.'

The Fables, Volume 1 (1727)
Introduction The Shepard and the Philosopher
Fable I The Lion, the Tiger, and the Traveller
Fable II The Spaniel and the Cameleon
Fable III The Mother, the Nurse, and the Fairy
Fable IV The Eagle, and the Assembly of Animals
Fable V The wild Boar and the Ram
Fable VI The Miser and Plutus
Fable VII The Lion, the Fox, and the Geese
Fable VIII The Lady and the Wasp
Fable IX The Bull and the Mastiff
Fable X The Elephant and the Bookseller
Fable XI The Peacock, the Turkey, and the Goose
Fable XII Cupid, Hymen, and Plutus
Fable XIII The Tame Stag
Fable XIV The Monkey who had seen the World
Fable XV The Philosopher and the Pheasants
Fable XVI The Pin and the Needle
Fable XVII The Shepherd's Dog and the Wolf
Fable XVIII The Painter who pleased Nobody and Everybody
Fable XIX The Lion and the Cub
Fable XX The Old Hen and the Cock
Fable XXI The Rat-catcher and Cats
Fable XXII The Goat without a Beard
Fable XXIII The Old Woman and her Cats
Fable XXIV The Butterfly and the Snail
Fable XXV The Scold and the Parrot
Fable XXVI The Cur and the Mastiff
Fable XXVII The Sick Man and the Angel
Fable XXVIII The Persian, the Sun, and the Cloud
Fable XXIX The Fox at the point of Death
Fable XXX The Setting-dog and the Partridge
Fable XXXI The Universal Apparition
Fable XXXII The Two Owls and the Sparrow
Fable XXXIII The Courtier and Proteus
Fable XXXIV The Mastiffs
Fable XXXV The Barley-mow and the Dunghill
Fable XXXVI Pythagoras and the Countryman
Fable XXXVII The Farmer's Wife and the Raven
Fable XXXVIII The Turkey and the Ant
Fable XXXIX The Father and Jupiter
Fable XL The Two Monkeys
Fable XLI The Owl and the Farmer
Fable XLII The Jugglers
Fable XLIII The Council of Horses
Fable XLIV The Hound and the Huntsman
Fable XLV The Poet and the Rose
Fable XLVI The Cur, the Horse, and the Shepherd's Dog
Fable XLVII The Court of Death
Fable XLVIII The Gardener and the Hog
Fable XLIX The Man and the Flea
Fable L The Hare and many Friends

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