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BELLING THE CAT

Many of the nobility and barons held a secret council in the church of Lauder, where they enlarged upon the evils which Scotland sustained through the insolence and corruption of Cochran and his associates. While they were thus declaiming, Lord Gray requested their attention to a fable. “The mice,” he said, “being much annoyed by the persecution of the cat, resolved that a bell should be hung about puss’s neck, to give notice when she was coming. But though the measure was agreed to in full council, it could not be carried into effect, because no mouse had the courage enough to undertake to tie the bell to the neck of the formidable enemy.” This was as much to intimate his opinion that though the discontented nobles might make bold resolutions against the King’s ministers, yet it would be difficult to find anyone couragous enough to act upon them.

Archibald, Earl of Angus, a man of gigantic strength and intrepid courage started up when Gray had done speaking. “I am he”, he said, “who will bell the cat”; from which expression he was distinguished by the name of Bell-the-Cat to his dying day.

Briggs, Katharine M. A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970. (vol.1 pg.104)

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