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
39
and Huggy was very proud of it. One night he and the deader were out together, when their walk happened to take them (as it generally did) round by the pantry. As a matter of course, they went in, and had a good meal off a loaf which the careless table-maid had left standing on the shelf. Beside the loaf was a box of matches, and Huggy could not be happy till he had found out what was inside. First he gnawed the box a little, then he dragged it up and down, then he gnawed a little more, and, find­ing it was not very good to eat, he began to play with it. Suddenly, without any warning, there was a splutter and a flare. Huggy and the leader were outside in a twink­ling, leaving the pantry in a blaze. Luckily no great damage was done, for the flames were seen and put out in time.
So, little by little, Huggy was led on. In vain did his mother plead with him to be careful. He was ' a big rat now, and could look after himself,' he said. The following week the leader organised a party to invade the hen-house. Of course Huggy was among the number chosen. It re­quired no little skill to creep noiselessly up the broken ladder, visiting the various nests ranged along each side of the walls; for laying hens are nervous ladies, and, if startled, make enough noise to waken a town. But the leader had selected his party well, and not a sound was made till the proper time came. Once up the ladder, each rat took it in turn to slip in behind the hen, and gently roll one egg at a time from under her. The poor birds rarely resisted; experience had taught them long since the futility of such conduct. It was the young and igno­rant fowls who gave all the trouble; they fluttered about in a fright and disturbed the whole house. But the rats knew pretty well which to go to; so they worked on with­out interruption. When they had collected about a dozen eggs, the next move was to take them safely down the ladder into the cellar. This was very soon done. Huggy lay down on his back, nestled an egg cosily between himself
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