When Basboos went to Hadj

Basboos was a large marmalade male cat who lived in a Gideon forest. Early each morning, he would pad softly through the dappled sunlight of his forest home, silently picking his way through the undergrowth, stopping at frequent intervals to sniff the air for a tasty morsel of prized white mouse. He was the king of his clowder and he ruled supreme in his imperial forest of Gideon. Later in the day, he would take to a lone stream and either lay down and stretch himself out or wait for an unwary white mouse to stop by for a drink.
But Basboos had been forewarned to change his habits or he would surely perish. “My dear imperial sire,” his religious advisor would say, “you can’t go on like this forever. You must repent your deeds, change your colors and learn to be kind to the white mice that fear you so. At least if you cannot be kind to them, don’t eat them.”
Basboos regularly patrolled his territory on a daily basis, making sure that no other feline intruders dare approach his forest kingdom. His religious advisor was the only male allowed into his territory but this morning, when he heard the news, Basboos was outraged and answered in a furious growl, “What, have you taken leave of your senses? How can I not eat the white mice that pitter-patter everywhere? They are the tastiest morsels I have ever had the delight to consume.”
Then as his whiskers twitched nervously and his claws retracted into the soft earth of his newly built and extravagant den, he squinted his amber eyes and asked his wise advisor, “And just how do you fill your belly? Don’t tell me you don’t eat mice at all.”
“No, your majesty, I have given up eating mice completely. I went to the Hadj and it is as if I experienced a rebirth. I now in good conscience can do no other living creature any harm.”
Basboos felt his eyes burn red with anger. “Then just what is it that you do eat?”
Oh, master, I only partake of nuts and berries and when lucky, lap up whatever spilled milk I might find on the forest floor. I have even taken to the idea of eating honey. You will see, once you go to the Hadj, everything will change.”
Basboos noted how sleek his advisor’s coat now appeared. Why, he thought to himself, it is smoother and softer than ever before. He looked deep into the eyes of his counsel and for the first time saw a calmness there he had never noticed before. Lo and behold, the countenance of his advisor was serene and peaceful, even pleasant to look at for the first time that the monarch could remember.
“How long does it take to go to this Hadj of yours and do you think there is hope that I can change?”
“Oh, yes your highness. You will experience a great awakening and everything will change, your desires, your tastes, your wants in this life.”
“Yes, everything.”
So it was. Basboos decided to go to the Hadj. He was accompanied by some other feline delegates from neighboring clowders. After a few weeks of absence, he returned to his forest domain thinking to himself that indeed he was different. He called for his advisor and invited his fellow felines over for a welcoming party and announced proudly to them that, “I have gravely wronged the white mice who share my forest habitat with me. I have reformed and I am now insisting that my counsel circulate a letter of apology to all mice who live in the forest of Gideon.”
His fellow feline neighbors meowed in approval and soon after his reception and confession; a letter was circulated to all the white mice who dwelled in the forest of Gideon.
The advisor did as he was ordered and in no time, all the white mice in Basboos’s kingdom read the circular, which was in truth, an apologetic confession of his past glutinous habit of devouring any white mouse that happened to cross his path.
Basboos wasn’t sure that the white mice would even believe the circular, but all he could do was hope and wait and dine on berries and nuts and when he was lucky, lap up a bit of spilt milk from the forest floor. Berries and nuts weren’t so bad after all, he thought. At least he wasn’t chomping down any more helpless mice who squealed whenever he bit through their fluffy white fur and crunched on their tasty flesh. But wrong was wrong and he was a new marmalade cat. He noticed whenever he stood hours on end admiring his reflection in the lone stream that trickled through his forest home, that his coat was smoother now and shinier than it had ever been and that his countenance was almost angelic. He felt good about himself.
One day, one great day, his counsel entered his chambers and announced, “I’m sorry to disturb you your highness, but you have a visitor.”
Basboos only opened one eye and sleepily squinted at his counsel. He stretched out his limbs and yawned slightly and then said in a drowsy mew, “Who is this visitor you speak of?”
“The white mice have sent an emissary to welcome you sire. It is an occasion to celebrate and a test of your endurance and abstinence.”
Basboos jumped up. “Yes you are right,” he purred. ” Have him enter immediately.”
Suddenly, the most beautiful white mouse that he had ever seen, entered his palatial den. He was about 3 inches long with a tail of similar size. His pink eyes were intent and he did not take them off Basboos as if looking for an answer to his unasked question. His coat was rich and lustrous and his little nose twitched in anticipation.
Berries and nuts. Bah! What were berries and nuts to a tasty morsel of mouse? Had he been mad to give up such delights? Just look at this luscious piece of food so close to him that he could reach out and pounce on it before it knew what hit it. Unintentionally, his tongue slipped out and licked his jaws and he drooled a bit. But all Basboos said in a low and restrained voice was, “Welcome, my friend. I am sorry that I have eaten so many mice in my day and broken up so many micey homes. It is my greatest wish that you will all forgive me and that we can now be friends and live in peace and happiness for the rest of our days.”
He ended his apology with a long gentle purr as if to convince the white emissary of his pure intentions. His tail switched up and down a few times as if to certify his noble intentions. He even stretched out his paw in friendship. But instead, the mouse scampered away as fast as he could, before Basboos could say or do anything further.
The white mouse returned to his fellow mice. Basboos’s counsel, who happened to be picking berries in the same vicinity where the mice lived, overheard the emissary saying to the other white mice who asked him about whether the monarch had really conformed or not, “The Hadj went to Hadj but that old glint of mischief is still in his eye. I did not wait to be his diner. The way he looked at me and the way he hungrily licked his jaws were proof enough that nothing has changed.”