|THE WHITE CAT|
|THERE was once a King who had three sons, and because
they were all so good and so handsome, he could not make up his mind to which of them to
give his kingdom. For he was growing an old man, and began to think it would soon be time
for him to let one of them reign in his stead.
he determined to set them a task to perform, and whichever should be the most successful
was to have the kingdom as his reward.
It was some time before he could decide what the task
should be. But at last he told them that he had a fancy for a very beautiful little dog,
and that they were all to set out to find one for him. They were to have a whole year in
which to search, and were all to return to the castle on the same day, and present the
various dogs they had chosen at the same hour.
The three Princes were greatly surprised by their
father's sudden fancy for a little dog, but when they heard that whichever of them brought
back the prettiest little animal was to succeed his father on the throne, they made no
further objection, for it gave the two younger sons a chance they would not otherwise have
had of being King.
So they bade their father good-bye, and after agreeing to
be back at the castle at the same hour, and on the same day, when a year should have
passed away, the three brothers all started together.
A great number of lords and servants accompanied them out
of the city, but when they had ridden about a league they sent everyone back, and after
embracing one another affectionately, they all set out to try their luck in different
The two eldest met with many adventures on their travels,
but the youngest saw the most wonderful sights of all.
He was young and handsome, and as clever as a Prince
should be, besides being brave.
Wherever he went he enquired for dogs, and hardly a day
passed without his buying several, big and little, greyhounds, spaniels, lap-dogs, and
sheep-dogs--in fact, every kind of dog that you could think of, and very soon he had a
troop of fifty or sixty trotting along behind him, one of which he thought would surely
win the prize.
So he journeyed on from day to day, not knowing where he
was going, until one night he lost his way in a thick dark forest, and after wandering
many weary miles in the wind and rain he was glad to see at last a bright light shining
through the trees. He thought he must be near some woodcutter's cottage, but what was his
surprise when he found himself before the gateway of a splendid castle!
At first he hesitated about entering, for his garments
were travel stained, and he was drenched with rain, so that no one could have possibly
taken him for a Prince. All the beautiful little dogs he had taken so much trouble to
collect had been lost in the forest, and he was thoroughly weary and disheartened.
However, something seemed to bid him enter the castle, so
he pulled the bell. Immediately the gateway flew open, and a number of beautiful white
hands appeared, and beckoned to him to cross the courtyard and enter the great hall.
Here he found a splendid fire blazing, beside which stood
a comfortable arm-chair; the hands pointed invitingly towards it, and as soon as the
Prince had seated himself they proceeded to take off his wet, muddy clothes, and dress him
in a magnificent suit of silk and velvet.
When he was ready, the hands led him into a
brilliantly-lighted room, in which was a table spread for supper. At the end of the room
was a raised platform, upon which a number of cats were seated, all playing different
The Prince began to think he must be dreaming, when the
door opened, and a lovely little White Cat came in. She wore a long black veil, and was
accompanied by a number of cats, dressed in black, and carrying swords.
She came straight up to the Prince, and in a sweet, sad
little voice bade him welcome. Then she ordered supper to be served, and the whole company
sat down together.
They were waited upon by the mysterious hands, but many
of the dishes were not to the Prince's liking. Stewed rats and mice may be a first-rate
meal for a cat, but the Prince did not feel inclined to try them.
However, the White Cat ordered the hands to serve the
Prince with the dishes he liked best, and at once, without his even mentioning his
favorite food, he was supplied with every dainty he could think of.
After the Prince had satisfied his hunger, he noticed
that the Cat wore a bracelet upon her paw, in which was set a miniature of himself; but
when he questioned her about it, she sighed, and seemed so sad that, like a well-behaved
Prince, he said no more about the matter.
Soon after supper, the hands conducted him to bed, when
he at once fell fast asleep, and did not awaken until late the next morning. On looking
out of his window, he saw that the White Cat and her attendants were about to start out on
a hunting expedition.
As soon as the hands had dressed him in a hunting-suit of
green, he hurried down to join his hostess.
The hands led him up to a wooden horse, and seemed to
expect him to mount. At first the Prince was inclined to be angry, but the White Cat told
him so gently that she had no better steed to offer him, that he at once mounted, feeling
very much ashamed of his ill-humor.
They had an excellent day's sport. The White Cat, who
rode a monkey, proved herself a clever huntress, climbing the tallest trees with the
greatest ease, and without once falling from her steed.
Never was there a pleasanter hunting party, and day after
day the time passed so happily away that the Prince forgot all about the little dog he was
searching for, and even forgot his own home and his father's promise.
At length the White Cat reminded him that in three days
he must appear at court, and the Prince was terribly upset to think that he had now no
chance of winning his father's kingdom. But the White Cat told him that all would be well,
and giving him an acorn, bade him mount the wooden horse and ride away.
Thc Prince thought she must be mocking him, but when she
held the acorn to his ear, he heard quite plainly a little dog's bark.
"Inside this acorn," she said, "is the
prettiest little dog in the world. But be sure you do not open the fruit until you are in
the King's presence."
The Prince thanked her, and having bidden her a sorrowful
farewell, mounted his wooden steed and rode away.
Before he reached the castle, he met his two brothers,
who made fine fun of the wooden horse, and also of the big ugly dog which trotted by his
They imagined this to be the one their brother had
brought back from his travels, hoping that it would gain the prize.
When they reached the palace, everyone was loud in praise
of the two lovely little dogs the elder brothers had brought back with them, but when the
youngest opened his acorn and showed a tiny dog, lying upon a white satin cushion, they
knew that this must be the prettiest little dog in the world.
However, the King did not feel inclined to give up his
throne just yet, so he told the brothers that there was one more task they must first
perform: they must bring him a piece of muslin so fine that it would pass through the eye
of a needle.
So once more the brothers set out upon their travels. As
for the youngest, he mounted his wooden horse and rode straight back to his dear White
She was delighted to welcome him, and when the Prince
told her that the King had now ordered him to find a piece of muslin fine enough to go
through the eye of a needle, she smiled at him very sweetly, and told him to be of good
"In my palace I have some very clever
spinners," she said, "and I will set them to work upon the muslin."
The Prince had begun to suspect by this time that the
White Cat was no ordinary pussy, but whenever he begged her to tell him her history, she
only shook her head mournfully and sighed.
Well, the second year passed away as quickly as the
first, and the night before the day on which the three Princes were expected at their
father's court, the White Cat gave the young Prince a walnut, telling him that it
contained the muslin. Then she bade him good-by, and he mounted the wooden horse and rode
This time the young Prince was so late that his brothers
had already begun to display their pieces of muslin to the King when he arrived at the
castle gates. The materials they had brought were of extremely fine texture, and passed
easily through the eye of a darning-needle, but through the small needle the King had
provided they would not pass. Then the youngest Prince stepped into the great hall and
produced his walnut. He cracked it carefully, and found inside a hazel-nut. This when
cracked held a cherrystone , inside the cherrystone was a grain of wheat, and in the wheat
a millet-seed. The Prince himself began to mistrust the White Cat, but he instantly felt a
cat's claw scratch him gently, so he persevered, opened the millet-seed, and found inside
a beautiful piece of soft white muslin that was four hundred ells long at the very least.
It passed with the greatest ease through the eye of the smallest needle in the kingdom,
and the Prince felt that now the prize must be his.
But the old King was still very loth to give up ruling,
so he told the Princes that before any one of them could become King he must find a
Princess to marry him who would be lovely enough to grace her high station; and whichever
of the Princes brought home the most beautiful bride should really have the kingdom for
Of course, the Prince went back to the White Cat, and
told her how very unfairly his father had behaved to him. She comforted him as best she
could, and told him not to be afraid, for she would introduce him to the loveliest
Princess the sun had ever shone upon.
The appointed time passed happily away, and one evening
the White Cat reminded the Prince that on the next day he must return home.
"Alas!" said he, "where shall I find a
Princess now. The time is so short that I cannot even look for one."
Then the White Cat told him that if only he would do as
she bade him all would be well.
"Take your sword, cut off my head and my tail, and
cast them into the flames," she said.
The Prince declared that on no account would he treat her
so cruelly; but she begged him so earnestly to do as she asked that at last he consented.
No sooner had he cast the head and the tail into the fire
than a beautiful Princess appeared where the body of the cat had been. The spell that had
been cast upon her was broken, and at the same time her courtiers and attendants, who had
also been changed into cats, hastened in in their proper forms again, to pay their
respects to their mistress.
The Prince at once fell deeply in love with the charming
Princess, and begged her to accompany him to his father's court as his bride.
She consented, and together they rode away. During the
journey, the Princess told her husband the story of her enchantment.
She had been brought up by the fairies, who treated her
with great kindness until she offended them by falling in love with the young man whose
portrait the Prince had seen upon her paw, and who exactly resembled him.
Now, the fairies wished her to marry the King of the
Dwarfs, and were so angry when she declared she would marry no one but her own true love,
that they changed her into a White Cat as a punishment.
When the Prince and his bride reached the court, all were
bound to acknowledge that the Princess was by far the loveliest lady they had ever seen.
So the poor old King felt that now he would be obliged to give up his kingdom. But the Princess knelt by his side, kissed his hand gently, and told him that there was no reason for him to cease ruling, for she was rich enough to give a mighty kingdom to each of his elder sons, and still have three left for herself and her dear husband.
So everyone was pleased, and there was great rejoicing and feasting in the King's palace, and they all lived happily ever after.
BY THE COMTESSE D'AULNOY
FROM THE BOOK:
<THE YOUNG FOLKS TREASURY>
THE UNIVERSITY SOCIETY INC.