Arthur the Rat
Australian English: Pronunciation and Transcription
Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Arthur the Rat
Adapted from an original story by Sellon (1876:52-55) cited by MacMahon (1991).
- 1. Once upon a time, there was a young rat named Arthur who couldn't make up his mind.
- 2. Whenever the other rats asked him if he would like to go out hunting with them,
- 3. he would answer in a soft voice, ‘I don't know.’
- 4. And when they said, ‘Would you rather stay inside?’
- 5. he wouldn't say yes or no either. He'd always avoid making a choice.
- 6. One fine day, his aunt Zelda appealed to him,
- 7. ‘Now look here! No one is going to care about you if you carry on like this.
- 8. You have no more mind of your own than a greasy old blade of grass!’
- 9. Arthur coughed and looked wise as usual, but said nothing.
- 10. ‘Don't you think so?’ said Zelda, stamping her foot,
- 11. for she couldn't bear to see the poor little rat so coldblooded.
- 12. ‘I don't know,’ was all he ever answered,
- 13. and then he'd walk off to think for an hour or more about whether he would stay in his hole in the ground or go up into the loft.
- 14. One night the rats heard a loud noise. They lived in a very dark and dreary old place.
- 15. The roof let the rain come washing in, making shallow pools on the muddy floor.
- 16. The beams and rafters were all rotten through, so eventually the whole structure was quite unsafe.
- 17. At last, one of the joists gave way and the beams fell down.
- 18. The walls shook and the ceiling collapsed with a loud bang.
- 19. The rats shrieked and their fur stood on end with fear and horror.
- 20. ‘This won't do,’ said their leader with a scowl.
- 21. ‘We can't stay cooped up here any longer.’
- 22. So he sent out scouts to search for a new home.
- 23. A little later in the evening they came back, having found an old-fashioned barn near a stone house where there would be room, board and food for all of them.
- 24. There, they saw a kindly mare named Alberta, a cow, and some birds in the garden with an elm tree in the middle.
- 25. The leader gave the order at once, ‘Company, fall in!’.
- 26. The rats crawled out of their holes right away and the sad mob stood on the floor in a long line.
- 27. Just then, the old rat caught sight of young Arthur.
- 28. He wasn't in the line, and he wasn't exactly outside it;
- 29. he stood just nearby, ears pricked.
- 30. ‘Come on, get in line!’ growled the old rodent, unamused.
- 31. ‘You are coming too, aren’t you?’
- 32. ‘I don't know,’ said Arthur calmly.
- 33. ‘Why, the idea of it! You don't think it's safe here anymore, do you?’
- 34. ‘I'm not certain,’ said Arthur, undaunted. ‘The roof may not fall down yet.’
- 35, ‘Well,’ said the old rat, ‘you would be stupid not to join us.’
- 36. Then he turned to the assembled group and shouted, ‘Right about face! March!’
- 37. and the long line marched out of the barn while the young rat watched them.
- 38. ‘I think I'll go tomorrow,’ he said to himself,
- 39. ‘but then again, perhaps I won't - it's so nice and snug here.
- 40. I guess I'll go back to my hole under the log for a while before I make up my mind.’
- 41. But during the night there was a big crash. Down came beams, rafters, joists—the whole business—in a pile of rubble.
- 42. Next morning, there was a foggy dew. Some boys and girls ran to the barn and a man in boots came to view the damage.
- 43. It seemed odd that the old building was not haunted by rats.
- 44. But at last one of the children happened to nudge a board
- 45. and he saw a puny rat, quite dead, tail half in and half out of his hole.
- 46, Thus the coward got his due, and there was no mourning him.