THE CLEVER CAT 137
us.' So they alighted in some bushes in the heart of the rat city. The falcon remained where he was, but the cat lay down outside the principle gate, causing terrible excitement among the rats.
At length, seeing she did not move, one bolder than the rest put its head out of an upper window of the castle, and said, in a trembling voice:
'Why have you come here? What do you want? If it is anything in our power, tell us, and we will do it.'
'If you would have let me speak to you before, I would have told you that I come as a friend,' replied the cat; 'and I shall be greatly obliged if you would send four of the strongest and cunningest among you, to do me a service.'
'Oh, we shall be delighted,' answered the rat, much relieved. 'But if you will inform me what it is you wish them to do I shall be better able to judge who is most fitted for the post.'
'I thank you,' said the cat. 'Well, what they have to do is this: To-night they must burrow under the walls of the castle and go up to the room where a Jew lies asleep. Somewhere about him he has hidden a stone, on which are engraved strange signs. When they have found it they must take it from him without his waking, and bring it to me.'
'Your orders shall be obeyed,' replied the rat. And he went out to give his instructions.
About midnight the cat, who was still sleeping before the gate, was awakened by some water flung at him by the head rat, who could not make up his mind to open the doors.
'Here is the stone you wanted,' said he, when the cat started up with a loud mew; 'if you will hold up your paws I will drop it down.' And so he did. 'And now farewell,' continued the rat; 'you have a long way to go, and will do well to start before daybreak.'
'Your counsel is good,' replied the cat, smiling to itself;