The Tales and Fables of the late Archbishop and Duke of Cambray
A mouse perfectly fatigued with living in perpetual danger and alarms, on account of cats and the bacon-eating rascals whomade such havock of the mician race, called her companion who lay perdue in an adjacent hole. I have a thought, said she, come into my head. I observed in a book of travels as I was nibbling it the other day that there is a fine country called the indies where our people meet with much more civility and live freer from insults than we do here. In that country their doctors are of the opinion that the soul of a mouse may have formerly animated some brave general, king, or celebrated faquir and that after its death, it may enter into the body of some celebrated beauty or some noted Pendiar. To the best of my remembrance, tis called Metempsychosis. As this is their recieved opinion, they treat the whole race of animals with fraternal affection there are hospitals erected for mice, who have annual pensions and are maintained like persons of distinction. Come, sister, let us set sail for that glorious country where the people are goverened by such wholesome laws and where our merit will meet with due reward. Her companion replied: but sister, are there no cats residing in these hospitals? If so, they would make abundance of those same Metempsychoses in a very little time; and at one gripe with their teeth or claws, send our souls to animate some king, or some faquir, a piece of preserment that neither of us should be over-fond of. Never fear that, said the former. They are compleat economists in that country: the cats have their own distinct mansions as we have, and they have hospitals likewise for their invalids, at a due distance from ours. Hereupon our two mice set out together, they go onboard a vessel bound for the indian coast by creeping along some cables in the dusk of the evening, just before the captain weighed anchor. Away they sail, they are transported to see themselves upon the seas, far distant from that fatal shore where the cats ruled with such tyrannic power. They had a good passage. They arrived at surat, not with a view to enrhich themselves, as most merchants do, but to meet with a courteous reception from the indians. No sooner were they admitted into one of their Mician hapitations, but they laid claim to a most commodious apartment. One of them pretened that she very well remembered her being formerly a celebrated Bramin on the coast of malabar. The other insisted that she had been a beautiful lady of the same place, and universally admired for her long ears. They behav'd themselves with such insolence that the indian mice could not endure them. A civil war ensued. They gave no quarter to these two pragmatical europeans who audaciously endeavoured to turn law-givers and assume superiority over others. Instead of being devoured by the cats, they were strangled by their own sisters. 'Tis to no purpose to travel to foreign parts to fly from danger: unless we have modesty and discretion we go afar to seek misfortunes, which we may as well meet at home.
Francois de Salignac de la Mothe Fénelo
Carlson Fables Collection
Illustrated by George Bickham