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THE WHITE CAT.
A certain king had three sons, all handsome, brave, and fine young gentlemen; but being suspicious that they had formed a design to deprive him of his crown, he thought of a method to divert them from their intended purpose. Having called them one day into his closet, he spoke to them as follows:---"My sons, I am now come to a great age, and cannot apply myself to public affairs with so much care as formerly; therefore I intend to resign my crown to one of you: but, as it is but right to require some proof of your abilities, in order to determine which is the most worthy of so valuable a present, I propose and promise, that he who shall bring me the most beautiful little dog shall immediately take possession of my throne." The three princes readily agreed to ⟨⟩ proposal, each concluding himself ⟨⟩ likely to succeed in fulfilling this extraordinary request. After taking leave of the⟨⟩ they set out, with orders to return that ⟨⟩ twelvemonth with dogs. Each took a different road, without any attendants; ⟨⟩ we shall leave the two eldest at present, ⟨⟩ confine our story to the youngest.
This accomplished prince, as he was ⟨⟩ desirous to show his duty to his father ⟨⟩ to become a king, was more fortunate in ⟨⟩ undertaking than either of the others. ⟨⟩ night, having travelled till it was very late and being overtaken by a storm in a ⟨⟩ forest, he discovered a light at a distance and, pursuing his journey with all speed, ⟨⟩ arrived at a most stately castle, the gates ⟨⟩ which were of massy gold, and the walls ⟨⟩ fine china, whereon were painted the histories of all the fairies that ever appeared ⟨⟩ earth. At the door hung a chain of diamonds, with a deer’s foot at the end; on pulling which, the prince heard a bell of so pleasing a sound, that he concluded it to be made of gold or silver. Immediately the door opened, and twelve hands, each holding a flambeau, gently conducted him into a hall of motherof-pearl, and from thence through a vast variety of chambers, all richly covered with paintings and jewels. The beauty of these ornaments was greatly heightened by a number of lights, that hung from the ceiling in glass sconces of exquisite workmanship.
After having passed through sixty apartments, a fine easy chair moved towards him of its own accord; the fire lighted itself, and the hands pulled off his clothes, which had been drenched in the storm, and dressed him in others so extraordinarily fine and rich, that it dazzled his sight to behold himself. While the prince was in the utmost astonishment at this uncommon adventure, he saw a multitude of cats enter the room, and seat themselves on the bench. One held a music-book, and some played on instruments, while others beat time. In the midst of this concert, a small figure came forward in a mourning veil, led by two cats in black cloaks, and followed by a long train of cats, some with rats, and others with mice, in their mouths. The young prince was so surprised, that he had not power to move; when the little figure, lifting up its veil, discovered the prettiest white cat that ever was seen. "Prince," said she, "be not afraid, but give me your company with cheerfulness. It shall be the ambition of me and all my mewing attendants to give you pleasure."
On a signal given, supper was brought in; but the prince at first declined eating, till the White Cat, guessing the reason, assured him that there were no rats nor mice in any thing that was set before him. As the prince was admiring this beautiful cat, he observed a small picture hanging upon her foot. He asked her to show it him; and how great was his surprise to see a charming young man very much resembling himself! yet, observing the White Cat to sigh, he was afraid at that time to satisfy his curiosity concerning it, and so endeavoured to divert her by entertaining conversation, in which he found her to be extremely sensible, and acquainted with every thing that passed in the world. He slept every night in an apartment hung with tapestry made of the wings of butterflies, on a bed of the most delicious flowers, and every day was spent in the most delightful amusement In this manner almost a year slipped away insensibly; and the prince entirely forgot his native home and the little dog he was to carry to his father. But the White Cat knew when he was to return; and one day, as they were walking together in a grove near the palace, "Do you remember, prince," said she, "the promise you made your father? Your brothers have already procured some curious little dogs, and there remain but three days for you to find one more beautiful, or lose a kingdom." These ⟨⟩ awoke the prince from his dream of pleasure. "Alas!" cried he, "what have I been doing? My honour is lost for ever." ---"Do not afflict yourself," said the White Cat; "I will find a horse that will carry you home in less than twelve hours. And as for the little dog, take this acorn, in which there is one: put it to your ear, and you will hear it hark." The prince did so, and, transported with pleasure, thanked her a thousand times. Bidding her farewell, he mounted the wooden horse, and arrived at his father’s palace just as his brothers entered the courtyard. He ran to embrace them, and all three went together to the king.--- The two eldest presented their dogs, which were so equally beautiful, that it was impossible to know in whose favour to determine. But the youngest soon put an end to the debate; for, pulling the acorn out of his pocket and opening it, they saw a little dog lying on cotton, so small that it might go through a ring; it was of a mixtur of colours, and its ears reached the ground. The king was convinced that nothing could be met with so beautiful; but, being unwilling yet to part with his crown, he told his children, that he must make a further trial of their love and diligence before he performed his promise: they must take another year to find out a web of cloth fine ⟨⟩ to go through the eye of a small needle.
This request, though unjust, they ⟨⟩ it best to comply with: and our ⟨⟩ mounted his wooden horse, and returned ⟨⟩ speed to his White Cat, on which alone ⟨⟩ depended for assistance. He found her ⟨⟩ on a quilt of white satin. As soon as ⟨⟩ saw him, she expressed the utmost joy while the prince caressed her in the ⟨⟩ tender manner, and told her the success of his journey. The White Cat redoubled her efforts to render the prince more happy, if possible, than he had been before. He wished for nothing but the hands which brought it to him ; and the second year rolled away so fast, that the prince would again have forgot his orders, had not the White Cat reminded him thereof: "But make yourself perfectly easy concerning the web," said she, "for I have one wonderfully fine. Take this walnut; be sure to crack it in your father’s presence, and you'will find in it such a web as you want."
The prince thanked her in the most grateful manner; and was presently carried by the wooden horse to his father's palace, where his brothers had got before him. They pulled out their webs, which were exceeding fine, and would go through the eye of a large needle, but could not be made to pass through the eye of a small one. The king was going to avail himself of this pretext, when the youngest prince unexpectedly entered, and produced a walnut, which he cracked. Finding only a kernel of wax, the king and all present ridiculed him for thinking to find a web of cloth in a nut. However, he broke the kernel, and saw in it a corn of wheat, and in that a grain of millet-seed: he then opened the millet-seed, and, to the utter astonishment and confusion of all the beholders, drew out a web of cloth four hundred yards long. The needle was brought, and the web was put through the eye of it five or six times with the greatest ease.
The king fetched a deep sigh, and turning towards his sons, "My children," said he, "I am still desirous of putting you to a new trial: go for another year; and he that brings me the most beautiful damsel, shall marry her and be crowned king; and I swear most solemnly, that I will require no other proof of your filial affection and discretion." Our sweet prince heard this tyrannic command without a murmur; and, remounting his courser, flew to his dear White Cat; which, knowing the moment of his return, was prepared to receive him in the golden gallery. "Prince," said she, "the king I find, has refused you the crown; however, I hope you will take care to deserve it, and I will provide you with a beautiful damsel who will gain the prize."
The prince grew more and more fond of her; and in her abode enjoyed every magnificent entertainment that fancy could invent.---When this last year was near expired, the White Cat thus addressed him. "If you are sensible of the favours I have conferred upon you, now is the time to make me amends. Do not hesitate, but cut off my head and tail, and throw them into the fire." Tears started from the prince’s eyes at this request, and he was going several times to refuse; but the White Cat insisted upon it so earnestly, that at last, with a trembling hand, he chopped off her head and tail, and threw them according to order into the fire. In an instant the body of the White Cat was changed into the most beautiful lady that ever was seen, and immediately a great number of gentlemen and ladies, holding their cats’ skins over their shoulders, came and fell prostrate at her feet, crying, "Long live our gracious queen! How great is our joy to see her once more in her natural shape!" The prince was glad beyond description to behold so charming a creature but could not help expressing an earnest desire to know the cause of this surprising transformation. "Restrain your curiosity," says the lovely queen, "till we arive at your father’s court, where I am now ready to accompany you, and where I will relate my unheard-of misfortunes. Come, see, the carriage waits." So saying, she gave her hand to the prince, who led her into a chariot, the inside of which was fine velvet, set with brilliants, the outside gold; and the horses’ harness was made of emeralds.
Away they flew, and were presently at the gates of the king’s palace, where the two eldest princes were already arrived with their two princesses, in fine calashes of blue, embossed with gold. The courtiers crowded to present these three illustrious couples to the king. The two eldest princes with their ladies advanced first, and were received very graciously by the monarch, who declared they had brought him two such beauties, that he knew not to which he should give the preference; but the moment the youngest approached with his queen, both full of grace and dignity, the king cried out in ecstacy, "This is the incomparable beauty, whose worth and excellence claims and deserves my crown!"---"I came not to rob you of your crown," answered the discreet queen; "I was born heiress to six kingdoms. Give me leave to present one of them to you, and one to each of your sons; for which I ask no other return than this amiable prince in marriage."
The king and all the court were struck with joy at this declaration; and the nuptials were celebrated the same day with great magnificence. Never were a pair more happy; and the young prince, to the last moment of his life, blessed the accident that led him to the abode of the sweet White Cat.
THE YELLOW DWARF.
There was once a queen, who, though she had born many children, had but one daughter left alive, of whom she was fond to an excess, humouring and indulging her in all her ways and wishes. This princess was exceedingly beautiful, so that she was called All-Fair, and had twenty kings courting her at one time. Her mother, being advanced in years, would fain have had her married and settled before she died, but no entreaties could prevail; whereupon she determined to go to the Desert Fairy to ask advice concerning her stuborn daughter.
Now, this fairy being guarded by two fierce lions, the queen made a cake of millet, sugarcandy, and crocodiles’ eggs, in order to appease their fury and pass by them; and having thus provided herself, she set out. After traveling some time, she found herself weary, and, lying down under a tree, fell asleep. When she awoke, she heard the lions which guarded the fairy roaring, upon which, looking for her cake, she found it was gone. This threw her into the utmost agony, not knowing how to save herself from being devoured by them; when, hearing somebody cry, "Hem! hem!" she lifted up her eyes, and beheld a little yellow man on a tree, half a yard high, picking and eating oranges.
"Ah! queen," said the yellow Dwarf, (for so he was called on account of his complexion, and the orange-tree he lived in) "how will you escape the lions? There is but one way: I know what business brought you here! promise me your daughter in marriage, and I will save you," The queen thought she could not but look upon so frightful a figure with horror, yet was forced to consent; where upon she instantly found herself in her own palace, and all that had passed seemed only as a dream; nevertheless, she was so throughly persuaded of the realty of it, that she became melancholy.
The young princess being unable to learn the cause of her dejection, resolved to go and inquire of the Desert Fairy; and, accordingly, having prepared a cake for the lions, she also set off for her abode. It happened that All-Fair took exactly the same rout her mother had done before her; and coming to the fatal tree, which was loaded with oranges, she had a mind to pick some! therefore, setting down her basket wherein she carried the cake, she plentifully indulged herself. The lions now began to roar, when All-Fair, looking for her cake, was thrown into the utmost trouble on finding it gone. As she was lamenting her deplorable situation, the Yellow Dwarf presented himself to her with these words:---"Lovely princess, dry up your tears, and hear what I am going to say: You need not proceed to the Desert Fairy to know the reason of your mother’s indisposition, she is ungenerous enough to repent of having promised you, her adorable daughter, to me in marriage."---"How!" interrupted the princess; "my mother promised me to you marriage! you! such a fright as you!" ---"Nay, none of your scoffs," returned the Yellow Dwarf, "I wish you not to stir up my anger: if you will promise to marry me, I will be the tenderest and most loving husband in the world---if not, save yourself from the lions if you can." In short, the princess was forced to give her word that she would have him, but with such agony of mind, that she fell into a swoom; and when she recovered, she found herself in her own bed, finely adorned with ribbons, and a ring of a single red hair so fastened round her finger that it could not be got off.
This adventure had the same effect upon All-Fair as the former had upon her mother. She grew melancholy, which was remarked and wondered at by the whole court. The best way to divert her, they thought, would be to urge her to marry; which the princess, who was now become less obstinate on that point than formerly, consented to; and, thinking that such a pigmy as the Yellow Dwarf would not dare to contend with so gallent a person as the King of the Golden Mines, she fixed upon this king for her husband, who was exceedingly rich and powerful, and loved her to distraction. The most superb preparations were made for the nuptials, and the happy day was fixed; when, as they were proceeding to the ceremony, they saw moving towards them a box, wheron sat an old woman remarkable for her ugliness.---"Hold queen and princess," cried she, knitting her brows, "remember the promises you both made to my friend the Yellow Dwarf. I am the Desert Fairy, and if All-Fair does not marry him, I swear by my coif, I will burn my crutch." The queen and princess were struck motionless by this unexpected greeting of the Fairy; but the Prince of the Golden Mines was exceedingly wroth; and, holding his sword to her throat, "Fly wretch!" said he, or thy malice shall cost thee thy life." No sooner had he uttered these words, than the top of the box flying off, out came the Yellow Dwarf, mounted upon a large Spanish cat, who placing himself between the king and the fairy, uttered these words: ---"Rash youth, thy rage should be levelled at me, not at the Desert Fairy; I am thy rival, and claim her by promise, and a single hair round her finger."
This so enraged the king, that he cried out, contemptible creature! wert thou worthy of notice, I would sacrifice thee for thy presumption." Whereupon the Yellow Dwarf clapping spurs to his cat, and drawing a large cutlass, defied the king to combat; and so they went into the court-yard. The sun then immediately turned red as blood, and it became dark: thunder and lightning followed, by the flashes whereof were perceived to giants vomiting fire on each side of the Yellow Dwarf.
The king behaved with such undaunted courage as to give the Dwarf great perplexity; but was dismayed, when he saw the Desert Fairy, mounted on a winged griffin, with her head covered with snakes, strike the princess so heard with a lance, that she fell into the queen’s arms all over with blood. He left the combat to go to her relief; but the dwarf was to quick for him, and, flying on his Spanish cat to the balcony where she was, he took her from her mother’s arms, leaned with her upon the top of the palace, and immediately disappeared.
As the king-stood confused and astonished at this strange adventure, he suddenly found a mist before his eyes, and himself lifted up in the air by some extraordinary power: for the Desert Fairy had fallen in love with him. To secure him for herself, therefore, she carried him to a frightful cavern, hoping he would there forget All-Fair, and tried many artifices to complete her designs. But finding this scheme ineffectual, she resolved to carry him to a place altogether as pleasant as the other was terrible; and accordingly set him by herself in a chariot drawn by swans. In passing through the air, he had the unspeakable surprise to see his adored princess in a castle of polished steel, leaning her head on one hand, and wiping away the tears with the other. She happened to look up, and had the mortification to see the king sitting by the fairy, who then, by her art, made herself appear extremely beautiful. Had not the king been sensible of the fairy’s power, he would certainly then have tried to free himself from her. At last they came to a stately palace, fenced on one side by walls of emeralds, and on the other by a boisterous sea.
The king, by pretending to be in love with the fairy, obtained liberty to walk by himself on the shore; and, as he was one day invoking the powers of the sea, he heard a voice, and presently after was surprised with the appearance of a Mermaid, which, coming up with a pleasant smile, spoke these words:---"O King of the Golden Mines, I well know all that has passed in regard to you and the fair princess. Don’t suspect this to be a contrivance of the fairy’s to try you, for I am an inveterate enemy both to her and the Yellow dwarf; therefore, if you will have confidence in me, I will lend you my assistance to procure the release not only of yourself, but of All-Fair also." The overjoyed king promised to do whatever the Mermaid bade him; whereupon, setting him upon her tail, they sailed away on a rolling sea.
When they had sailed some time, "Now," said the Mermaid to the king, "we drew near the place where your princess is kept by the Yellow Dwarf. You will have many enemies to fight before you can come to her; take, therefore, this sword, with which you may overcome every thing, provided you never let it go out of your hand." The king returned her all the thanks that the most grateful heart could suggest; and the Mermaid landed and took leave of him,promising him farther assistance when necessary.
The king boldly advanced, and meeting with two terrible sphinxes, laid them dead at his feet with his sword. Next he attacked six dragons that opposed him, and despatched them also.Then he met with four and twenty nymphs, with garlands of flowers, at sight of whom he stopped, being loath to destroy so much beauty; when he heard a voice say, "Strike! strike! or you will lose your princess for ever!" upon which he threw himself in the midst of them, and soon dispersed them. He now came in view of All-Fair, and, hastening to her, exclaimed, "O my princess, behold your faithful lover!” But she, drawing back, replied, "Faithful lover! Did I not see you passing through the air with a beautiful nymph? Were you faithful then?" "Yes," replied the king, "I was. That was the detested Desert Fairy, who was carrying me to a place where I must have languished out all my days, had it not been for a kind Mermaid, by whose assistance it is that I am now come to release you." So saying, he cast himself at her feet; but, catching hold of her gown, unfortunately let go the magic sword: which the Yellow Dwarf no sooner discovered, than, leaping from behind a shrub where he had been concealed, he ran and seized it. By two cabalistcal words he then conjured up two giants, who laid the king in irons. "Now," said the dwarf, "my rival's fate is in my own hands; however, if he will consent to my marriage, he shall have his life and liberty." "No," said the king, "I scorn thy favour on such terms;" which so provoked the dwarf, that he instantly stabbed him to the heart. The disconsolate princess, aggravated to the last degree at such barbarity, thus vented her grief:—"Thou hideous creature, since entreaties could not avail thee, perhaps thou now reliest upon force; but thou shalt be disappointed, and thy brutal soul shall know perpetual mortification from the moment I tell the I die for thee love I have for the King of the Golden Mines!" And so saying, she sunk down upon his body, and expired without a sigh.
Thus ended the fate of these two faithful lovers, which the Mermaid very much regretted; but, all her power lying in the sword, she could only change them into two palmtrees; which, preserving a constant mutual affection for each other, caress and unite their branches together.
THE THREE WISHES.
There was once a man, not very rich, who had a very pretty woman to his wife. One winter’s evening, as they sat by the fire, they talked of the happiness of their neighbours, who were richer than they. Said the wife, "If it were in my power to have what I wish, I should soon be happier than all of them." "So should I too," said the husband; "I wish we had fairies now, and that one of them was kind enough to grant me what I should ask." At that instant they saw a very beautiful lady in their room, who said to them, "I am a fairy; and I promise to grant to you the three first things you shall wish; but take care---after having wished for three things, I will not grant one wish further." The fairy disappeared; and the man and his wife were much perplexed. "For my own part, said the wife, "if it were left to my choice I know very well what I should wish for: I do not wish yet, but I think nothing is so good as to be handsome, rich, and to be of great quality." But the husband answered, "With all these things one may be sick and fretful, and one may die young: it would be much wiser to wish for health, cheerfulness, and long life." "But to what purpose is long life with poverty?" says the wife: "it would only prolong your misery. In truth, the fairy should have promised us a dozen of gifts, for there are at least a dozen things which I want." "That may be true,” said the husband; "but let us take time; let us consider till morning the three things which are most necessary for us, and then wish." "I’ll think all night," said the wife; "meanwhile let us warm ourselves, for it is very cold." At the same time the wife took the tongs to mend the fire; and seeing there were a great many coals thoroughly lighted, she said without thinking on it, "Here’s a nice fire; I wish we had a yard of black pudding for our supper; we could dress it easily." She had hardly said these words, when down came tumbling through the chimney a yard of black pudding. "Plague on your greedy guts with your black pudding!" said the husband: "here’s a fine wish indeed! Now we have only two left; for my part I am so vexed, that I wish the black pudding fast to the tip of your nose." The man soon perceived he was sillier than his wife; for, at this second wish, up starts the black pudding, and sticks so fast to the tip of the poor wife’s nose, there was no means to take it of. "Wretch that I am!" cried she; "you are a wicked man for wishing the pudding last to my nose." "My dear," answered the husband, "I vow I did not think of it; but what shall we do? I am about wishing for vast riches, and propose to make a golden case to hide the pudding." "Not at all," answered the wife; "for I should kill myself, were I to live with this pudding dangling at my nose: be persuaded, we have still one wish to make; leave it to me, or I shall instantly throw myself out of the window." With this she ran and opened the window; but the husband, who loved his wife, called out, "Hold, my dear wife! I give you leave to wish for what you will." "Well," said the wife, "my wish is that this pudding may drop off." At that instant the pudding dropped off; and the wife, who did not want wit, said to her husband; "The fairy has imposed upon us; she was in the right; possibly we should have been more unhappy with riches than we are at present. Believe me, friend, let us wish for nothing, and take things as it shall please God to send them: in the mean time, let us sup upon our pudding, since that’s all that remains to us of our wishes." The husband thought his wife judged right; they supped merrily, and never gave themselves further trouble about the things which they had designed to wish for.
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