A fine full-grown Trout for had some time kept his station in a clear stream, when, one morning, a Cat, extravagantly fond, as cats are wont to be, of fish, caught a glimpse of him, as he glided from beneath an overhanging part of the bank, toward the middle of the river; and with this glimpse, she resolved to spare no pains to
capture him. As she sat on the bank waiting for the return of the fish, and laying a plan for her enterprise, a Fox came up, and saluting her, said: "Your servant, Mrs. Puss. A pleasant place this for taking the morning air; and a notable place for fish, eh!"
"Good morning, Mr. Reynard," replied the Cat. "The place is, as you say, pleasant enough. As for fish, you can judge for yourself whether there are any in this part of the river. I do not deny that near the falls, about four miles from here, some very fine salmon and other fish are to be found."
At this very moment, very inappositely for the Cat's hint, the Trout made his appearance; and the Fox looking significantly at her, said:
"The falls, madam! Perhaps this fine Trout is on his way thither. It may be that you would like the walk; allow me the pleasure of accompanying you?"
"I thank you, sir," replied the Cat, "but I am not disposed to walk so far at present. Indeed, I hardly know whether I am quite well. I think I will rest myself a little, and then return home."
"Whatever you may determine," rejoined the Fox, "I hope to be permitted to enjoy your society and conversation; and possibly I may have the great gratification of preventing the tedium which, were you left alone, your indisposition might produce."
In speaking thus, the crafty Fox had no doubt that the only indisposition from which the Cat was suffering was an unwillingness to allow him a share of her booty; and he was determined that, so far as management could go, she should catch no fish that day without his being a party to the transaction. As the trout still continued in sight, be began to commend his shape and color; and the Cat, seeing no way of getting rid of him, finally agreed that they should jointly try their skill and divide the spoil. Upon this compact, they both went actively to work.
They agreed first to try the following device: A small knob of earth covered with rushes stood in the water close to the bank. Both the fishers were to crouch behind these rushes; the Fox was to move the water very gently with the end of his long brush, and withdraw it so soon as the Trout's attention should have been drawn to that point; and the Cat was to hold her right paw underneath, and be ready, so soon as the fish should come over it, to throw him out on the bank. No sooner was the execution of this device commenced than it seemed likely to succeed. The Trout soon noticed the movement on the water, and glided quickly toward the point where it was made; but when he had arrived within about twice his own length of it, he stopped and
then backed toward the middle of the river. Several times this maneuver was repeated, and always with the same result, until the tricky pair were convinced that they must try some other scheme.
It so happened that whilst they were considering what they should do next, the Fox espied a small piece of meat, when it was agreed that he should tear this into little bits and throw them into the stream above where they then were; that the Cat should wait, crouched behind a tuft of grass, to dash into the river and seize the Trout, if he should come to take any piece of meat floating near the bank; and
that the Fox should, on the first movement of the Cat, return and give his help. This scheme was put into practice, but with no better success than the other. The Trout came and took the pieces of meat which had floated farthest off from the bank, but to those which floated near he seemed to pay no attention. As he rose to take the
last, he put his mouth out of the water and said, "To other travelers with these petty tricks: here we are 'wide awake as a black fish' and are not to be caught with bits and scraps, like so many silly gudgeons!"
As the Trout went down, the Fox said, in an undertone: "Say you so, my fine fellow; we may, perhaps, make a _gudgeon_ of you yet!"
Then, turning to the Cat, he proposed to her a new scheme in the following terms:
"I have a scheme to propose which cannot, I am persuaded, fail of succeeding, if you will lend your talent and skill for the execution of it. As I crossed the bridge, a little way above, I saw the dead body of a small dog, and near it a flat piece of wood rather longer than your person. Now, let us throw the dead dog into the river and give the Trout time to examine it; then, let us put the piece of wood
into the water, and do you set yourself upon it so that it shall be lengthwise under you, and your mouth may lean over one edge and your tail hang in the water as if you were dead. The Trout, no doubt, will come up to you, when you may seize him and paddle to the bank with him, where I will be in waiting to help you land the prey."
The scheme pleased the Cat so much that, in spite of her repugnance to the wetting, which it promised her, she resolved to act the part which the cunning Fox had assigned to her. They first threw the dead dog into the river and, going down the stream, they soon had the satisfaction of seeing the Trout glide up close to it and examine it.
They then returned to the bridge and put the piece of wood into the water, and the Cat, having placed herself upon it and taken a posture as if she were dead, was soon carried down by the current to where the Trout was. Apparently without the least suspicion, he came up close to the Cat's head, and she, seizing him by one of his gills, held him in spite of all his struggles. The task of regaining the bank still had to be performed, and this was no small difficulty, for the Trout struggled so hard, and the business of navigation was so new to the Cat, that not without great labor and fatigue did she reach the place where the Fox was waiting for her. As one end of the board struck the bank, the Fox put his right forepaw upon it, then
seizing the fish near the tail, as the Cat let it go, he gave the board a violent push which sent it toward the middle of the stream, and instantly ran off with the Trout in his mouth toward the bridge.
It had so happened that after the Fox had quitted the bridge the last time, an Otter had come there to watch for fish, and he, seeing the Trout in the Fox's mouth, rushed toward him, and compelled him to drop the fish and put himself on the defensive. It had also happened that this Otter had been seen in an earlier part of the day, and that notice of him had been given to the farmer to whom the Cat belonged, and who had more than once declared that if ever he found her fishing again she should be thrown into the river with a stone tied to her neck. The moment the farmer heard of the Otter, he took his gun, and followed by a laborer and two strong dogs, went toward the river, where he arrived just as the Cat, exhausted by the fatigue of her
second voyage, was crawling up the bank. Immediately he ordered the laborer to put the sentence of drowning in execution; then, followed by his dogs, he arrived near the bridge just as the Fox and the Otter were about to join battle. Instantly the dogs set on the Fox and tore him to pieces; and the farmer, shooting the Otter dead on the spot, possessed himself of the Trout, which had thus served to detain first
one, then the other of his destroyers, till a severe punishment had overtaken each of them. Moral.--The inexperienced are never so much in danger of being deceived and hurt as when they think themselves a match for the crafty, and suppose that they have penetrated their designs and seen through all their stratagems. As to the crafty, they are ever in danger, either by being overreached one by another or of falling in a hurry into some snare of their own, where, as commonly happens, should they be caught, they are treated with a full measure of severity.--Aesop, Jr., in America.