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Attacked by Rats

Unknown Publication.  Dated 1877

Attacked by Rats.
I remember an adventure of Weybridge's which put his courage beyond question, and at the same time illustrated the close connection that existed between himself and the canine race.  There was a certain granary in Cambridge so infested with rats that for some time they had made the place almost useless for the purpose for which it was designed, but just as Whittington found his cats a mine of wealth by sending them to a foreign market, so did the proprietor of this establishment derive advantage from his rats at the hands of some very exceptional customers.  Mr. Weybridge and some young friends of similar tastes, purchased at a high price the rights of sporting over the granary floors, and the rats were allowed to have their fill like pheasants in a preserve, in return for the amusement they afforded. 

On one occasion battle had been arranged for, the principal apartment had been "baited" with a fine supply of grain, the rats had fallen to, and then the holes of .egress had been stopped up.  It was computed that about six hundred rats were indulging, a false confidence, and getting too fat to live in Mr. Miller's granary.  Mr. John Weybridge was not altogether, it seems, deficient in imagination; for, picturing in his mind's eye this charming scene, and himself in the middle of it, the temptation of anticipating the treat which should have been by rights reserved for self and friends proved too great for him, he resolved to enter upon the adventure alone, save for the company of his favourite and inseparable black-and-tan terrier Jacko. 

It was a selfish as well as an ambitious act, and, like Julius Caesar, grievously did our hero suffer for it.  Waking, no doubt, from heavenly dreams of gigantic rats and "varmint" dogs, he took his way early in the morning of the proposed battle to the scene of action, opened the granary door, let himself and Jacko in, and turned the key behind him.  He had a handy bludgeon, and Jacko had (at that time) his teeth, and these were all their weapons.  So soon as the two allies appeared the six hundred scuttled away to their holes, and found them stopped; then they turned round (ratted), stood at bay, and finally attacked their assailants; their motto was no longer sauve qui peut , but "death to tyrants".

Mr. John Weybridge used to describe the attack of the rats as little inferior in audacity to the Balaclava Charge, which, by a curious coincidence, consisted, it will be remembered, of the same number of assailants.  They flew at him and Jacko, tooth and claw, and both man and dog must have felt that their work was cut out before them.  With the second blow of his bludgeon, Mr. John Weybridge killed Jacko.  Under ordinary circumstances he would have thought considerable less of killing a human fellow creature-such as a "Bargee"-and the sad mischance of the moment overwhelmed him.  Even in that supreme moment, with angry rats holding on to him everywhere, and climbing up him in all directions like flies, a pathetic thought passed through his mind.  He knew that the dog was dead (for he never hit anything twice), and he resolved to have him stuffed.  He did not know at that time how small was the chance of his ever being able to pay that last sad tribute to his faithful companion's memory; but after ten minutes of hot combat, during which he laid about him like a Paladin, and with all the fury of revenge, he began to fear that his foes were very literally "too many for him", and, fighting as he fled, he retreated to the door. 

But the key which, in his desire for solitary slaughter, he had turned, was rusty, and refused to move, and, in his desperate efforts to release himself, broke in the lock.  It seemed that nothing remained for him but to sell his life as dearly as he could, and that that granary would prove his grave.  He still fought on, but his war cry was now "Help, help!" which he uttered with every blow he struck.  He was bitten in a hundred places; his clothes hung on him like rags, and the rats hung on him too; some of them about his very ears.  It was scarcely possible to imagine a more terrible death than seemed to await him.  Many men would have succumbed to the very horror of the position independently of the loss of blood which would have exhausted a less powerful frame; but John Weybridge stuck to his work, like the rats themselves, and was eventually rescued - only just in time.  Some early risers, hearing his cries, broke in the door, and found him half dead, though fighting still, with his dead dog beside him, but not - no, "not the six hundred".  He had killed about a third of them, and the other four hundred would have certainly killed him, but for that timely aid.  It was the only occasion on which he was ever known to confess that he had had enough of rats.

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