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Redwall Only Not Everyone's Thrilled To Be Praying To The Same Damn Fish Every Year After The Zillionth Feast And Gratitude-Festival
“Fur and whisker, tooth and claw,
All who enter by our door.
Nuts and herbs, leaves and fruits,
Berries, tubers, plants and roots,
Silver fish whose life we take
Only for a m… But Mattimeo, you’re not apologizing to the fish with the rest of the brethren,” Abbott Mordalfus remarked casually from the head of the table. Mattimeo looked up sharply, his gaze returned by four dozen scandalized monkish eyes. Mousy pandemonium broke out almost immediately, as abundant and varied as the dishes on the table (Chimney Surprise, Slice o’Delight, bubblig, More’n’more skillidish, Hotbeetle tearaways, turnip dumplings, skimmerdip soup).
“Mattimeo won’t apologize to the fish?”
“The yearly fish — the silver fish we eat once a year —”
“The special dinner-fish, who dies each spring as part of our solemn, rare spiritual break with vegetarianism? Mattimeo won’t speak to him —”
“Mattimeo has snubbed the fish!”
“Why,” — Abbott Mordalfus directed his question to the table generally — “would a mouse treat a fish who gave his beautiful watery life for our Greatsunday spring supper like so much garbage? Is this the behavior of a religious mouse?”
“No-o-o,” the table chorused back.
“Is it the behavior of a common field mouse?”
“No-o-o,” said the table again.
“What kind of animal treats the gift of flesh so lightly? What animal would seek to neutralize the loving death-gift of our silver fish, to render it profitless, to abandon the gift of dining for mere impulse and appetite?”
“A RAT,” the table roared, delighted in its own unanimity.
“Brother Woodrose,” Abbott Mordalfus said to the gatehouse-vole, “there is a rat at the table. Kindly discharge your duty.”
“Gladly-hurr,” Woodrose said, shambling out of his seat and rounding the corner towards Mattimeo’s spot on the longbench. “Gladly ‘n’ gladly.”
“Fuck abundance,” little pledge-brother Hepforth muttered to himself as he scurried down the steps to the cellar.
“What was that, little pledge-brother Hepforth?” Abbott Muirstangle emerged from the shadows on the landing, spreading his arms in a gesture of peace and smiling blandly.
“Oh, nothing, Father Muirstangle,” Hepforth said, “only I’m so looking forward to this afternoon’s feast, and this evening’s feast, and tomorrow’s feast too.”
“Feasts provide mice with an opportunity to be grateful,” Abbott Muirstangle said. “One must always be grateful for opportunities to demonstrate the virtue of gratitude.”
“Yes, Father Muirstangle,” Hepforth said.
“You have not tired already of gratitude, have you, little pledge?”
“Oh, no, Father Muirstangle,” Hepforth said. “No, sir, not in the least.”
“Redwall Abbey can provide a mouse with many reasons to be grateful, little monk. And you always have your brothers to remind and steady you. There will be a feast tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow again, and Redwall mice will always be grateful for the feasts Redwall provides them.”
“Yes, Father Muirstangle.”
“The world has no manners in it. Nature red in tooth and claw — but Redwall mice are stewards of the greater gifts, of the niceties of table, of restraint, of appreciation, of taste, of style. Animals tear, grind, swallow, chew cuds; they empty and fill and go empty again without thought or precision. Redwall mice dine. Redwall mice live indoors and go outdoors. They do not work and whelp and sleep and shit in the same field, under the same sky. They appreciate distinction and difference. They know the difference between killing for dinner and being killed for dinner. And they are grateful for that knowledge, always.”
At this, Abbott Muirstangle dropped his hands and lapsed back into pensive silence, such that Brother Hepforth could not tell whether he had been dismissed or not. Was a response proper? Did the Abbott need evidence he had been attending, that he had appreciated their impromptu lesson? Or was it a demonstration of silence and obedience he waited for? Abbott Muirstangle’s beneficence was dazzling and inscrutable. Brother Hepforth weighed his options.
“Shall I bring up the burdock wine now, Father?” he ventured.
Abbott Muirstangle prepared his answer. The scales held in Brother Hepforth’s mind.