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C. F. F
THE RAT'S WEDDING
NCE upon a time a fat sleek
Rat was caught in a shower of rain, and being far from shelter he set to work
and soon dug a nice hole in the ground, in which he sat as dry as a bone while
the raindrops splashed outside, making little puddles on the road.
Now in the course of his
digging he came upon a fine bit of root, quite dry and fit for fuel, which he
set aside carefully–for the Rat is an economical creature–in order to take it
home with him. So when the shower was over, he set off with the dry root in his
mouth. As he went along, daintily picking his way through the puddles, he saw a
poor man vainly trying to light a fire, while a little circle of children stood
by, and cried piteously.
exclaimed the Rat, who was both soft-hearted and curious, 'what a dreadful
noise to make! What is the matter?'
'The bairns are hungry,'
answered the man; 'they are crying for their breakfast, but the sticks are
damp, the fire won't burn, and so I can't bake the cakes.'
'If that is all your trouble,
perhaps I can help you,' said the good-natured Rat; 'you are welcome to this
dry root, and I'll warrant it will soon make a fine blaze.'
The poor man, with a
thousand thanks, took the dry root, and in his turn presented the Rat with a
morsel of dough, as a reward for his kindness and generosity.
'What a remarkably lucky
fellow I am!' thought the Rat, as he trotted off gaily with his prize, 'and
clever too! Fancy making a bargain like that–food enough to last me five days
in return for a rotten old stick! Wah! wah! wah! what it is to have
Going along, hugging his
good fortune in this way, he came presently to a potter's yard, where the
potter, leaving his wheel to spin round by itself, was trying to pacify his
three little children, who were screaming and crying as if they would burst.
'My gracious!' cried the
Rat, stopping his ears, 'what a noise!–do tell me what it is all about.'
'I suppose they are
hungry,' replied the potter ruefully; 'their mother has gone to get flour in
the bazaar, for there is none in the house. In the meantime I can neither work
nor rest because of them.'
'Is that all!' answered
the officious Rat; 'then I can help you. Take this dough, cook it quickly, and
stop their mouths with food.'
The potter overwhelmed
the Rat with thanks for his obliging kindness, and choosing out a nice
well-burnt pipkin, insisted on his
accepting it as a remembrance.
The Rat was delighted at
the exchange, and though the pipkin was just a trifle awkward for him to
manage, he succeeded after infinite trouble in balancing it on his head, and
went away gingerly, tink-a-tink, tink-a-tink, down the road, with
his tail over his arm for fear he should trip on it. And all the time he kept
saying to himself, 'What a lucky fellow I am! and clever too! Such a hand at a
By and by he came to
where some neatherds were herding their cattle. One of them was milking a
buffalo, and having no pail he used his shoes instead.
'Oh fie! oh fie!' cried
the cleanly Rat, quite shocked at the sight. 'What a nasty dirty trick!–why
don't you use a pail?'
'For the best of all
reasons–we haven't got one!' growled the neatherd, who did not see why the Rat
should put his finger in the pie.
'If that is all,' replied
the dainty Rat, 'oblige me by using this pipkin, for I cannot bear dirt!'
The neatherd, nothing
loath, took the pipkin, and milked away until it was brimming over; then
turning to the Rat, who stood looking on, said, 'Here, little fellow, you may
have a drink, in payment.'
But if the Rat was
good-natured he was also shrewd. 'No, no, my friend,' said he, 'that will not
do! As if I could drink the worth of my pipkin at a draught! My dear sir, I
couldn't hold it! Besides, I never make a bad bargain, so I expect you at
least to give me the buffalo that gave the milk.'
'Nonsense!' cried the
neatherd; 'a buffalo for a pipkin! Who ever heard of such a price? And what on
earth could you do with a buffalo when you got it? Why, the pipkin was
about as much as you could manage.'
At this the Rat drew
himself up with dignity, for he did not like allusions to his size.
'That is my affair, not
yours,' he retorted; 'your business is to hand over the buffalo.'
So just for the fun of
the thing, and to amuse themselves at the Rat's expense, the neatherds loosed
the buffalo's halter and began to tie it to the little animal's tail.
'No! no!' he called, in a
great hurry; 'if the beast pulled, the skin of my tail would come off, and then
where should I be? Tie it round my neck, if you please.'
So with much laughter the
neatherds tied the halter round the Rat's neck, and he, after a polite
leave-taking, set off gaily towards home with his prize; that is to say, he set
off with the rope, for no sooner did he come to the end of the tether
than he was brought up with a round turn; the buffalo, nose down grazing away,
would not budge until it had finished its tuft of grass, and then seeing
another in a different direction marched off towards it, while the Rat, to
avoid being dragged, had to trot humbly behind, willy-nilly.
He was too proud to
confess the truth, of course, and, nodding his head knowingly to the neatherds,
said, 'Ta-ta, good people! I am going home this way. It may be a little longer,
but it's much shadier.'
And when the neatherds
roared with laughter he took no notice, but trotted on, looking as dignified as
'After all,' he reasoned
to himself, 'when one keeps a buffalo one has to look after its grazing. A
beast must get a good bellyful of grass if it is to give any milk, and I have
plenty of time at my disposal.'
So all day long he
trotted about after the buffalo, making believe; but by evening he was dead
tired, and felt truly thankful when the great big beast, having eaten enough,
lay down under a tree to chew the cud.
Just then a bridal party
came by. The bridegroom and his friends had evidently gone on to the next
village, leaving the bride's palanquin to follow; so the palanquin bearers,
being lazy fellows and seeing a nice shady tree, put down their burden, and
began to cook some food.
meanness!' grumbled one; 'a grand wedding, and nothing but plain rice pottage
to eat! Not a scrap of meat in it, neither sweet nor salt! It would serve the
skinflints right if we upset the bride into a ditch!'
'Dear me!' cried the Rat
at once, seeing a way out of his difficulty, 'that is a shame! I
sympathise with your feelings so entirely that if you will allow me I'll give
you my buffalo. You can kill it, and cook it.'
returned the discontented bearers, 'what rubbish! Whoever heard of a rat owning
'Not often, I admit,'
replied the Rat with conscious pride; 'but look for yourselves. Can you not see
that I am leading the beast by a string?'
'Oh, never mind the
string!' cried a great big hungry bearer; 'master or no master, I mean to have
meat to my dinner!'
Whereupon they killed the
buffalo, and, cooking its flesh, ate their dinner with relish; then, offering
the remains to the Rat, said carelessly, 'Here, little Rat-skin, that is for
'Now look here!' cried
the Rat hotly; 'I'll have none of your pottage, nor your sauce either. You
don't suppose I am going to give my best buffalo, that gave quarts
and quarts of milk –the buffalo I have been
feeding all day–for a wee bit of rice? No!–I got a loaf for a bit of stick; I got
a pipkin for a little loaf; I got a buffalo for a pipkin; and now I'll have the
bride for my buffalo–the bride, and nothing else!'
By this time the
servants, having satisfied their hunger, began to reflect on what they had
done, and becoming alarmed at the consequences, arrived at the conclusion it
would be wisest to make their escape whilst they could. So, leaving the bride
in her palanquin, they took to their heels in various directions.
The Rat, being as it were
left in possession, advanced to the palanquin, and drawing aside the curtain,
with the sweetest of voices and best of bows begged the bride to descend. She
hardly knew whether to laugh or to cry, but as any company, even a Rat's, was
better than being quite alone in the wilderness, she did as she was bidden, and
followed the lead of her guide, who set off as fast as he could for his hole.
As he trotted along
beside the lovely young bride, who, by her rich dress and glittering jewels,
seemed to be some king's daughter, he kept saying to himself, 'How clever I am!
What bargains I do make, to be sure!'
When they arrived at his
hole, the Rat stepped forward with the greatest politeness, and said, 'Welcome,
madam, to my humble abode! Pray step in, or if you will allow me, and as the
passage is somewhat dark, I will show you the way.'
Whereupon he ran in
first, but after a time, finding the bride did not follow, he put his nose out
again, saying testily, 'Well, madam, why don't you follow? Don't you know it's
rude to keep your husband waiting?'
'My good sir,' laughed
the handsome young bride, 'I can't squeeze into that little hole!'
The Rat coughed; then
after a moment's thought he replied, 'There is some truth in your remark–you are
overgrown, and I suppose I shall have to build you a thatch somewhere. For
to-night you can rest under that wild plim-tree'.
'But I am so hungry!'
said the bride ruefully.
'Dear, dear! everybody
seems hungry to-day!' returned the Rat pettishly; 'however, that's easily
settled–I'll fetch you some supper in a trice.'
So he ran into his hole,
returning immediately with an ear of millet and a
'There!' said he,
triumphantly, 'isn't that a fine meal?'
'I can't eat that!'
whimpered the bride; 'it isn't a mouthful; and I want rice pottage, and cakes;
and sweet eggs, and sugar-drops. I shall die if I don't get them!'
'Oh dear me!' cried the
Rat in a rage, 'what a nuisance a bride is, to be sure! Why don't you eat the
'I can't live on wild
plums!' retorted the weeping bride; 'nobody could; besides, they are only half
ripe, and I can't reach them.'
'Rubbish!' cried the Rat;
'ripe or unripe, they must do you for to-night, and to-morrow you can gather a
basketful, sell them in the city, and buy sugar-drops and sweet eggs to your
So the next morning the
Rat climbed up into the plum-tree, and nibbled away at the stalks till the
fruit fell down into the bride's veil. Then, unripe as they were, she carried
them into the city, calling out through the streets –
'Green plums I sell!
green plums I sell!
Princess am I, Rat's
bride as well!'
she passed by the palace, her mother the Queen heard her voice, and, running
out, recognised her daughter. Great were the rejoicings, for every one thought
the poor bride had been eaten by wild beasts. In the midst of the feasting and
merriment, the Rat, who had followed the Princess at a distance, and had become
alarmed at her long absence, arrived at the door, against which he beat with a
big knobby stick, calling out fiercely, 'Give me my wife! give me my wife! She
is mine by fair bargain. I gave a stick and I got a loaf; I gave a loaf and I
got a pipkin; I gave a pipkin and I got a buffalo; I gave a buffalo and I got a
bride. Give me my wife! give me my wife!'
'La! son-in-law! what a
fuss you do make!' said the wily old Queen, through the door, 'and all about
nothing! Who wants to run away with your wife? On the contrary, we are proud to
see you, and I only keep you waiting at the door till we can spread the
carpets, and receive you in style.'
Hearing this, the Rat was
mollified, and waited patiently outside whilst the cunning old Queen prepared
for his reception, which she did by cutting a hole in the very middle of a stool, putting a red-hot stone
underneath, covering it over with a stewpan-lid, and then spreading a
beautiful embroidered cloth over all.
Then she went to the
door, and receiving the Rat with the greatest respect, led him to the stool,
praying him to be seated.
'Dear! dear! how clever I
am! What bargains I do make, to be sure!' said he to himself as he climbed on
to the stool. 'Here I am, son-in-law to a real live Queen! What will the
At first he sat down on
the edge of the stool, but even there it was warm, and after a while he began
to fidget, saying, 'Dear me, mother-in-law! how hot your house is! Everything I
touch seems burning!'
'You are out of the wind
there, my son,' replied the cunning old Queen; 'sit more in the middle of the
stool, and then you will feel the breeze and get cooler.'
But he didn't! for the
stewpan-lid by this time had become so hot, that the Rat fairly frizzled when
he sat down on it; and it was not until he had left all his tail, half his hair,
and a large piece of his skin behind him, that he managed to escape, howling
with pain, and vowing that never, never, never again would he make a bargain!
 Gharâ the common round earthen pot of India,
known to Anglo-Indians as 'chatty' (châtî )
 The vernacular word was ser, a
weight of 2 lbs.; natives always measure liquids by weight, not by capacity.
 Ber, several trees go by this name, but the species usually meant are
(1) the Zizyphus jujuba, which is generally a garden tree bearing large
plum-like fruit: this is the Pomum adami of Marco Polo; (2) the Zizyphus
nummularia, often confounded with the camel-thorn, a valuable bush used for
hedges, bearing a small edible fruit. The former is probably meant here.–See
Stewart's Punjab Plants, pp. 43-44.
 Pennisetum italicum, a very small grain.
 The words are–
gader! Gaderî gader!
Râjâ dî betî chûhâ le giâ gher.
The rat has encompassed the Râjâ's daughter.
 Pîrhî, a small, low, square stool with a
straight upright back, used by native women.
 Sarposh, usually the iron or copper cover used to cover degchîs