History of Whittington and his cat (2)/The Story of Puss in Boots
PUSS IN BOOTS.
There was a Miller who had three sons, and when he died he divided what he possessed among them in the following manner:— He gave his Mill to the eldest, his Ass to the second, and his Cat to the youngest.
Each of the brothers accordingly took what belonged to him without the help of an attorney, who would soon have brought their little fortune to nothing in law expenses.
The poor young fellow who had nothing but the Cat, complained that he was hardly used. "My brothers," said he “by joining their stocks together, may do very well in the world; but for me, when I have eaten my Cat, and made a cap of his skin, I may then die of hunger!"
The Cat, who all this time sat listening just inside the door of a cupboard, now ventured to come out, and addressed him as follows:—
“Do not thus afflict yourself, my good master; you have only to give me a bag, and get a pair of boots made for me, so that I may scamper through the dirt and the brambles, and you shall see that you are not so ill provided for as you imagine."
Though the Cat's master did not much depend upon these promises, yet, as he had often observed the cunning tricks with which Puss use to catch rats and mice, such as hanging by the hind legs, and hiding in the meal to make them believe he was dead, he did not entirely despair of his being of some use to him in his unhappy condition.
When the Cat had obtained what he asked for, he gaily began to equip himself: he drew on the boots, and, putting the bag about his neck, he took hold of the strings with his fore paws, and, bidding his master take courage, immediately sallied forth.
The first attempt Puss made was to go into a warren, in which there was a great number of rabbits. He put some bran and some parsley into his bag, and then stretched himself out at full length, as if he was dead; he waited for some young rabbits, which as yet knew nothing of the cunning tricks of the tribe, to come and get into the bag, the better to feast upon the dainties he had put into it.
Scarcely had he lain down before he succeeded as well as could be wished. A giddy young rabbit crept into the bag, and the Cat immediately drew the strings, and killed him without mercy.
Puss, proud of his prey, hastened directly to the palace, where he asked to speak to the King. On being shown into the apartment of his Majesty, he made a low bow, and said, “I have brought you, Sire, this rabbit from the warren of my Lord the Marquis of Carabas, who commanded me to present it to your Majesty, with the assurance of his respect." This was the title which the Cat thought proper to bestow on his master. “Tell my Lord Marquis of Carabas," replied the King," that I accept his present with pleasure, and that I am greatly obliged to him."
Soon after, the Cat laid himself down in the same manner in a field of corn, and had as much good fortune as before; for two fine partridges got into his bag, which he immediately killed and carried to the palace. The King received them as he had done the rabbit, and ordered his servants to give the messenger something to drink. In this manner he continued to carry presents of game to the King from my Lord Marquis of Carabas, once at least in every week.
One day, the Cat having heard that the King intended to take a ride that morning by the river
side with his daughter, who was the most beautiful princess in the world, he said to his master, "If you would but follow my advice your fortune is made. Take off your clothes, and bathe yourself in the river, just in the place I shall show you, and leave the rest to me."
The Marquis of Carabas did exactly as he was desired, without being able to guess at what the Cat intended. While he was bathing the King passed by, and Puss directly called out as loud as he could bawl-" Help! help! my Lord Marquis of Carabas is in danger of being drowned !" The King, hearing the cries, put his head out at the window of his carriage to see what was the matter; when perceiving the very cat who had brought him so many presents, he ordered his attendants to go directly to the assistance of my Lord Marquis of Carabas.
While they were employed in taking the Marquis out of the river, the Cat ran to the King's carriage, and told his Majesty that while his master was bathing, some thieves had run off with his clothes as they lay by the river side, the cunning Cat all the time having hid thein under a large stone.
The King, hearing this, commanded the officers of his wardrobe to fetch one of the handsonest suits it contained, and present it to the Lord Marquis of Carabas, at the same time loading him with a thousand attentions. As the fine clothes they brought him made him look like a gentleman, and set off his person, which was very comely, to the greatest advantage, the King's daughter was mightily taken with his appearance, and the Marquis of Carabas had no sooner cast upon her two or three respectful glances, than she became violently in love with him.
The King insisted on his getting into the carriage, and taking a ride with them. The Cat, enchanted to see how well his scheme was likely to succeed, ran before to a meadow that was reaping, and said to the reapers—"Good people, if you do not tell the King, who will soon pass this way, that the meadow you are reaping belong to my Lord Marquis of Carabas, you shall be chopped as small as mince meat."
The King did not fail to ask the reapers to whom the meadow belonged?—"To my Lord Marquis of Carabas," said they all at once, for the threats of the Cat had terribly frightened them. “You have here a very fine piece of land, my Lord Marquis," said the King—"Truly, Sire," replied he, "it does not fail to bring me every year a plentiful harvest."
The Cat, who still went on before, now came to a field where some other labourers were making sheaves of the corn they had reaped, to whom he said as before—“Good people, if you do not tell
the King, who will presently pass this way, that the corn you have reaped in this field belongs to my Lord Marquis of Carabas, you shall be chopped as small as mince meat."
The King accordingly passed a moment after, and inquired to whom the corn he saw belonged? _"To my Lord Marquis of Carabas, answered they very glibly; upon which the King again complimented the Marquis on his noble possessions.
The Cat still continued to go before, and gave the same charge to all the people he met with; so that the King was greatly astonished at the splendid fortune of my Lord Marquis of Carabas.
Puss at length arrived at a stately castle, which belonged to an Ogre, the richest ever known; for all the lands the King had passed through and admired were his. The Cat took care to learn every particular about the Ogre, and what he could do, and then asked to speak with him, saying, as he entered the room in which he was, that he could not pass so near his castle without doing himself the honour to inquire for his health.
The Ogre received him as civilly as an Ogre could do, and desired him to be seated. "I have been informed," said the Cat," that you have the gift of changing yourself into all sorts of animals; into a lion, or an elephant for example." "It is very true," replied the Ogre, somewhat sternly: "and to convince you, I will directly take the form of a lion." The Cat was so much terrified at finding himself so near a lion, that he sprang from him, and climbed to the roof of the house, but not without much difficulty, as his boots were not very fit to walk upon the tiles.
Some minutes after, the Cat perceiving that the Ogre had quitted the form of a lion, ventured to come down from the tiles, and owned that he had been a good deal frightened. “I have been further informed," continued the Cat, “but I know not how to believe it, that you have the power of taking the form of the smallest animals also; for example, of changing yourself to a rat or mouse. I confess I should think this must be impossible.” “Impossible! you shall see;" and, at the same instant, changed himself into a mouse, and began to frisk about the room. The Cat no sooner cast his eyes upon the Ogre in this form, than he sprang upon him, and devoured him in an instant.
In the meantime, the King admiring, as he came near it, the magnificent castle of the Ogre, ordered his attendants to drive up to the gates, as he wished to take a nearer view of it. The Cat, hearing the noise of the carriage on the draw-bridge, immediately came out, saying-“Your Majesty is welcome to the castle of my Lord Marquis of Carabas.” “And is this splendid castle yours also, my Lord Marquis of Carabas? I never saw any thing more stately than the building, or more beautiful than the park and pleasure-grounds around it. No doubt, the castle is no less magnificent within than without; pray, my Lord Marquis, indulge me with a sight of it."
The Marquis gave his hand to the young princess as she alighted, and followed the King, who went before. They entered a spacious hall, where they found a splendid collation which the Ogre had prepared for some friends he had that day expected to visit him, but who, hearing that the King with the princess, and a great gentleman of the court, were within, had not dared to enter.
The King was so much charmed with the amiable qualities and noble fortune of the Marquis of Carabas, and the young princess, too, had fallen so violently in love with him, that when the King had partaken of the collation, and drank a few glasses of wine, he said to the Marquis." It will be your own fault, my Lord Marquis of Carabas, if you do not soon become my son-in-law." The Marquis received the intelligence with a thousand respectful acknowledgments, accepted the honour conferred upon him, and married the princess that very day.
For some time the great banqueting hall of the castle was thrown open to all, the tables profusely spread with all the delicacies of the season, every eye beaming with joy, every heart seemed to respond with delight-all sat round the festive board in the full enjoyment of unmingled mirth. 'Twas a heart-stirring scene, all striving to share the smile of the Marquis and his beautiful bride.
The Cat became a great Lord, and never ran after rats and mice but for his amusement.