On the side of a hill, raising in the air his bizarre forms and strange sculptures, was the temple of Couannon, the goddess of mercy. Pilgrims follow one another in the crowd.
It’s a parade of all the misfortunes that passes continually before the statue of the goddess, with eleven heads and a thousand arms.
It has much to do, to listen to these multitudes of complaints, to fulfill those countless requests. Also, the good goddess, she takes very at ease; the misery of the mortals hardly disturb his august rest and stone ears remain perfectly indifferent to the desperate calls of pain.
The monks who serve the temple are more susceptible to pious competitions of the crowds; it is not without pleasure they hear ringing on the flagstones the continual noise of small copper coins.
A pilgrim who would, for one evening, spent the night in the temple, had witnessed a strange and mysterious scene. He had seen arise on all sides a multitude of small creatures crawling in the long, scaly tail, with blackish or ashen hair.
He had seen them massing before the statue of Couannon, joining their two front legs in the attitude of prayer and worship, uttering plaintive cries heartbreakingly. It was a family of rats.
The oldest of them, the head of the family, walked slowly to the front of the troops; then, after three customary prostrations, he formulated aloud the following prayer:
– O, good and compassionate goddess, you, called by the people the goddess of mercy, have mercy on our misery and listen to our woes! You know without doubt that, from immemorial time, our family lives in the attic of a large wholesale rice dealer. We have always lived there, happy and peaceful, fattening daily, and we are multiplying galore. Because, so far no cat is to disturb our existence.
But, a few days ago, driven by some unknown whim, our landlord has obtained a respectable size and extraordinary skill cat. This eternal enemy of our race began to give us a hunt without respite and without pity. One night it is one of our girls, we loved dearly, that disappeared and never returned. The next day, one of our women; then comes the turn of a father or mother, uncle or aunt, or a cousin. Every night is for either of us fatal and deadly. If things will continue this way, we are destined to disappear one after another, and we turn off forever.
Not knowing how to do, we rely on you, O, good and merciful goddess! Deliver us our mortal enemy, that bloody cat, goddess!
Such was the prayer of the leader. Hardly had he finished, all rats prostrating, beginning to utter piercing cries and shed copious tears.
Behind the insensitive statue, a frog was hidden. She had heard the long, plaintive prayer. No showing, she raised her voice and said,
– My friends, it’s all my heart, believe me, I sympathize with your sorrows and your misfortunes. The cat which you speak is indeed a terrible opponent for you. But, do you by chance that the cat be your only enemy? Do you know not in others?
– No! replied the rats, believing that voice that spoke to them was the voice of the goddess.
– Well! continued the frog, still not showing up, it’s unfortunate for you! No, my friends, the cat is not your unique and mortal enemy. You have another, and it is he the sole cause of everything bad that happens to you!
– What is he, good goddess?, replied the head of the family. So far we do not really know the other enemy, only the cat!
– This enemy which I speak, more subtle, more terrible, is not far from you. You carry with yourself. It accompanies you wherever you go, and that’s your misfortune!
Here rats looked. There was in the group low voice whispers. They did not understand what the goddess meant. So they waited to reveal the mystery. The frog, always hidden, continued:
– Well! this mortal enemy, it is these sharp teeth like a spin, you carry in your mouth. These teeth are itching constantly. They do not stop working. At night, when the man is sleeping, lying in her pillows, he hears you biting or nibbling the beams of the roof or the boards of its ceiling. This noise annoys him and prevents him from sleeping.
The next day, when he rises, what is not his anger to see one of the objects which he attached the price, devoured by these teeth who can spare nothing; sometimes it is a Kakemono he intended as a gift to a friend; sometimes it is one of the books which his son was using at school, or a silk sash that her daughter had accidentally left lying in a corner of the room. One day, it is the door of the buffet on your teeth which have left disastrous traces, or the partition of paper torn in several places. Another day, it’s the nice cushion used for distinguished visitors only. All these, not to mention the damage that your teeth are in the kitchen.
That is why man is angry; That is why your landlord, having resolved your loss, has acquired a cat.
Believe me, my friends, extract these teeth, which are the cause of all your misfortunes. So you can live quiet and multiply at your leisure.
When the frog had finished speaking, the rats took counsel. Should we obey the counsel of the goddess, and extract the teeth? The discussion was long. Pros and cons were weighed.
– So what will we do without our teeth? such was the cry that went from every mouth.
Finally, the vote took place. There was for the removal of teeth that the voice of some old grandmothers whose teeth had already fallen. The majority decided in favor of conservation. As compensation to the thing, it was resolved that they would move same evening and would go elsewhere for a safer home.
That night, in fact, the rats moved, carrying their belongings and provisions. They no longer been seen at the temple. And the rice merchant warmly congratulated for having procured a cat.