The Litigious Cats

Two Cats let a Monkey split stolen cheese. Monkey cut odd pieces and ate the difference trying to make them equal. Monkey ate last small piece as his fee.

Justice is in the eye of the beholder.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Litigious Cats

Ernest Griset (1874)

Two Cats having stolen some cheese, could not agree about dividing the prize. In order, therefore, to settle the dispute, they consented to refer the matter to a Monkey. The proposed arbitrator very readily accepted the office, and, producing a balance, put a part into each scale. “Let me see,” said he, “ay–this lump outweighs the other:” and immediately bit off a considerable piece in order to reduce it, he observed, to an equilibrium. The opposite scale was now become the heaviest, which afforded our conscientious judge an additional reason for a second mouthful. “Hold, hold,” said the two Cats, who began to be alarmed for the event, “give us our respective shares and we are satisfied.” “If you are satisfied,” returned the Monkey, “justice is not; a cause of this intricate nature is by no means so soon determined. Upon which he continued to nibble first one piece then another, till the poor Cats, seeing their cheese gradually diminishing, entreated him to give himself no further trouble, but to deliver to them what remained.” “Not so fast, I beseech ye, friends,” replied the Monkey; “we owe justice to ourselves as well as to you. What remains is due to me in right of my office.” Upon which he crammed the whole into his mouth, and with great gravity dismissed the court.

Taylor RhymesJefferys Taylor (The Two Cats)

Taylor - Two Cats 0113Two cats or dogs, just which you please,
Purloin’d a piece of Cheshire cheese;
But when to part the same they tried,
They did not seem quite satisfied;
But after some small altercation,
Referr’d the same to arbitration;
Entrusting to a monkey’s paws
The whole disposal of their cause.

“Now then,” said he, with learned look,
As in his hands the scales he took;
“You say these bits should weigh the same;
But one I see will kick the Beam
Unless I have a bit of t’other:—
Dear me! now this outweighs the other.
What shall I do?—another bite
Yet I must have to get them right.
Hey day! they are unequal yet!
Well, I’ll adjust them: do not fret,”
Said he, and bit another piece,
From the small remnant of their cheese.

“Hold!” said the cats, “good sir, refrain,
And give us back our cheese again.”

“Not so,” the learned judge replied;
“Justice is not yet satisfied;
A case of consequence, like this,
I cannot in such haste dismiss;
Another piece from this must come
To gain an equilibrium.”
Thus he the business did delay,
Till scarce an ounce was left to weigh.
Once more the cats, with hunger prest,
Entreated him to spare the rest.
“Friends,” said the ape, “this piece of cheese
Will barely pay the lawyer’s fees.”
Who straight devoured that morsel too,
Dismiss’d the court, and then withdrew.


From this I hope you’ll plainly see,
How much they lose who disagree;
You’d better take a portion small,
Than go to law and lose it all.

[Note: This fable has a story similar to The Two Travellers and The Oyster.]