Talking to a Rat

This is another gem from Cecil Torr’s Small Talk at Wreyland.

“From time to time the Country Council appoints a’rat week’ for a general attack on rats. Rats have a good deal of sense: hey abandon place where they are hunted down, and congregate in places where they are left alone. A rat-week frightens them away from these infested place; and in the following week here are more rats than can be counted in the place that were nearly free of them before. So a rat-week is rathe r nuisance to anybody who has always kept rats down.

When there is an attack on any kind of creature, there is always an outcry that every kind of creature has its use, and we shall suffer for upsetting Nature’s plans; and one naturally gets impatient with the silly folk who have all cobwebs swept away, and hen go grumbling that their rooms are full of flies. But rats are not indigenous her – England did very well without them until about 1350, like Australia without rabbits until about 1850. I am quite sure rats must be killed, and I get traps and poisons; but when it comes to killing one, my sympathies are with the rat, and I always have a secret hope that it will get away.

One winter afternoon I went up to my bedroom and found a rat there, sitting on the rug before the fire. It did not move when I came in, but looked at mea appealingly. I understood, and it saw I understood; and we had as clear a conversation as if we had expressed ourselves in words. the rat said, ‘I must apologize for this unwarranted intrusion; but I am suffering from some distressing malady, and entertain a hope that it may be within your power to alleviate my sufferings.’ I said, ‘I regret exceedingly that this should be entirely beyond my powers. I know too little of human maladies, and even less of the maladies of rodents; and were I to adopt the treatment usually prescribed for them, I fear your sufferings might be aggravated.’ and the rat said, ‘You disappoint me grievously,. But at least, I trust, you will not abuse the confidence I have reposed in you?’ I said, ‘Nothing could be further from my thoughts,’ and held the door politely open. The rat walked slowly out stopped at the top of the stairs, and looked back at me with much more confidence, ‘But really isn’t there anything at all you can do for me?’ I said, ‘I’m awfully sorry, but I’m afraid there isn’t.’ And the rat went slowly downstairs, out of doors, and away through the Pixey Garden.

The rat had come in through an open door; and this is the only way that a rat should be allowed to come into a house – the walls should be made rat-proof with cement. No doubt rats climb up ivy and other creepers on the walls, and sometimes reach the thatch that way; but I have never known one come in at a window.”

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