The Original Fables of La Fontaine/The Rat retired from the World

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(Book VII.—No. 3)

The ancients had a legend which told of a certain rat who, weary of the anxieties of this world, retired to a cheese, therein to live in peace. Profound solitude reigned around the hermit. He worked so hard with his feet and his teeth that in a few days he had a spacious dwelling and food in plenty. What more could he desire? He thrived well, growing large and fat. Blessings are showered upon those who are vowed to simplicity and renunciation!

One day a deputation from Rat-land waited upon him, begging that out of his abundance he would grant a slight dole towards fitting out a journey to a strange country where the rats hoped to get succour in their great war against the cat-tribe. Ratopolis was besieged, and owing to the poverty of the beleaguered republic they were forced to start with empty wallets. They asked but little, believing that in a few days help would arrive. "My friends," said the hermit, "earthly affairs no longer concern me. In what way could a poor recluse assist you? What could he do but pray for the help you need! My best hopes and wishes you may be assured of." With these words this latest among the saints shut his door.

Whom have I in mind, do you think, when I speak of this rat, so sparing of his help? A monk?—Oh, no! A dervish rather, for a monk, I suppose, is at all times charitable.