The Animal Story Book - online children's book

Edited By Andrew Lang And With Numerous Illustrations By H. J. Ford

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A RAT TALE
35
peer into it, only to confirm what I dreaded most — the corn-bin was empty! To-morrow they will pull down this rick, thresh the corn, and replenish the empty bin. So, my friends, unless we mean to die by dog, stick, or fork, we had better be off as soon as it is daylight.'
There was 'a shuffle of feet all round, and a general rush of anxious mothers into the rick to fetch out their young. Huggy was waiting at the entrance; so, as soon as he caught sight of his mother, he raced off with her to join the fast-assembling crowd at the back of the rick. The leader ranged them in lines of ten abreast, and, after walking up and down to see that all were in their places, he gave a shrill squeak, and the column started. They marched steadily for about two miles — slowly, of course, because of the young ones. Nothing proved an obstacle to them. Sometimes a high wall crossed their path, but they merely ran up one side and down the other, as if it was level road. Sometimes it was a broad river which confronted them, but that they swam without hesitation — rats will not stop at such trifles.
At length they came to a field where a man with a pair of horses was ploughing. His coat, in which his dinner was wrapt, lay on the wall some little distance from him. Seeing such a number of rats, he left his horses and ran for his life, and hid behind a knoll, whence he could view the proceedings without himself being seen. To his great disgust, he saw the creatures first crowd round his coat, then run over it, and finally eat out of his pocket the bread and cheese his wife had provided for his dinner!
That was a stroke of luck for the rats. They had not counted on so early a breakfast; so it was with lightsome hearts they performed the rest of their journey.
Huggy was very glad when it was over. He had never been so far in his life — he was only three weeks old. Their new home proved to be a cellar, which communi­cated on one side with sundry pipes running straight to
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