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Puss In Boots

from The Best Popular Stories Selected And Rendered Anew





A Miller, dying, divided all his property between his three children.
This was a very simple matter, as he had nothing to leave but his
mill, his ass, and his cat; so he made no will, and called in no
lawyer, who would, probably, have taken a large slice out of these
poor possessions. The eldest son took the mill, the second the ass,
while the third was obliged to content himself with the cat, at which
he grumbled very much. My brothers, said he, by putting their
property together, may gain an honest livelihood, but there is nothing
left for me except to die of hunger; unless, indeed, I were to kill my
cat and eat him, and make a coat out of his skin, which would be very
scanty clothing.

The cat, who heard the young man talking to himself, sat up on his
four paws, and looking at him with a grave and wise air, said,
Master, I think you had better not kill me; I shall be much more
useful to you alive.

How so? asked his master.

You have but to give me a sack, and a pair of boots such as gentlemen
wear when they go shooting, and you will find you are not so ill off
as you suppose.

Now, though the young miller did not much depend upon the cat's words,
still he thought it rather surprising that a cat should speak at all.
And he had before now seen him show so much adroitness and cleverness
in catching rats and mice, that it seemed advisable to trust him a
little farther, especially as, poor young fellow! he had nobody else
to trust.

When the cat got his boots, he drew them on with a grand air, and
slinging his sack over his shoulder, and drawing the cords of it round
his neck, he marched bravely to a rabbit-warren hard by, with which he
was well acquainted. Then, putting some bran and lettuces into his
bag, and stretching himself out beside it as if he were dead, he
waited till some fine fat young rabbit, ignorant of the wickedness and
deceit of the world, should peer into the sack to eat the food that
was inside. This happened very shortly, for there are plenty of
foolish young rabbits in every warren; and when one of them, who
really was a splendid fat fellow, put his head inside, Master Puss
drew the cords immediately, and took him and killed him without mercy.
Then, very proud of his prey, he marched direct up to the palace, and
begged to speak with the king. He was desired to ascend to the
apartments of his majesty, where, making a low bow, he said,

Sire, here is a magnificent rabbit, killed in the warren which
belongs to my lord the Marquis of Carabas, and which he has desired me
to offer humbly to your majesty.

Tell your master, replied the king, politely, that I accept his
present, and am very much obliged to him.

Another time, Puss went and hid himself and his sack in a wheat-field,
and there caught two splendid fat partridges in the same manner as he
had done the rabbit. When he presented them to the king, with a
similar message as before, his majesty was so pleased that he ordered
the cat to be taken down into the kitchen and given something to eat
and drink; where, while enjoying himself, the faithful animal did not
cease to talk in the most cunning way of the large preserves and
abundant game which belonged to my lord the Marquis of Carabas.

One day, hearing that the king was intending to take a drive along the
river-side with his daughter, the most beautiful princess in the
world, Puss said to his master, Sir, if you would only follow my
advice, your fortune is made.

Be it so, said the miller's son, who was growing very disconsolate,
and cared little what he did: Say your say, cat.

It is but little, replied Puss, looking wise, as cats can. You have
only to go and bathe in the river, at a place which I shall show you,
and leave all the rest to me. Only remember that you are no longer
yourself, but my lord the Marquis of Carabas.

Just so, said the miller's son; it's all the same to me; but he
did as the cat told him.

While he was bathing, the king and all the court passed by, and were
startled to hear loud cries of Help, help! my lord the Marquis of
Carabas is drowning. The king put his head out of the carriage, and
saw nobody but the cat, who had, at different times, brought him so
many presents of game; however, he ordered his guards to fly quickly
to the succour of my lord the Marquis of Carabas. While they were
pulling the unfortunate marquis out of the water, the cat came up,
bowing, to the side of the king's carriage, and told a long and
pitiful story about some thieves, who, while his master was bathing,
had come and carried away all his clothes, so that it would be
impossible for him to appear before his majesty and the illustrious
princess.

Oh, we will soon remedy that, answered the king, kindly; and
immediately ordered one of the first officers of the household to ride
back to the palace with all speed, and bring back the most elegant
supply of clothes for the young gentleman, who kept in the background
until they arrived. Then, being handsome and well-made, his new
clothes became him so well, that he looked as if he had been a marquis
all his days, and advanced with an air of respectful ease to offer his
thanks to his majesty.

The king received him courteously, and the princess admired him very
much. Indeed, so charming did he appear to her, that she hinted to her
father to invite him into the carriage with them, which, you may be
sure, the young man did not refuse. The cat, delighted at the success
of his scheme, went away as fast as he could, and ran so swiftly that
he kept a long way ahead of the royal carriage. He went on and on,
till he came to some peasants who were mowing in a meadow. Good
people, said he, in a very firm voice, the king is coming past here
shortly, and if you do not say that the field you are mowing belongs
to my lord the Marquis of Carabas, you shall all be chopped as small
as mince-meat.

So when the king drove by, and asked whose meadow it was where there
was such a splendid crop of hay, the mowers all answered, trembling,
that it belonged to my lord the Marquis of Carabas.

You have very fine land, Marquis, said his majesty to the miller's
son; who bowed, and answered that it was not a bad meadow, take it
altogether.

Then the cat came to a wheat-field, where the reapers were reaping
with all their might. He bounded in upon them: The king is coming
past to-day, and if you do not tell him that this wheat belongs to my
lord the Marquis of Carabas, I will have you every one chopped as
small as mince-meat. The reapers, very much alarmed, did as they were
bid, and the king congratulated the Marquis upon possessing such
beautiful fields, laden with such an abundant harvest.

They drove on--the cat always running before and saying the same thing
to everybody he met, that they were to declare the whole country
belonged to his master; so that even the king was astonished at the
vast estate of my lord the Marquis of Carabas.

But now the cat arrived at a great castle where dwelt an Ogre, to whom
belonged all the land through which the royal equipage had been
driving. He was a cruel tyrant, and his tenants and servants were
terribly afraid of him, which accounted for their being so ready to
say whatever they were told to say by the cat, who had taken pains to
inform himself of all about the Ogre. So, putting on the boldest face
he could assume, Puss marched up to the castle with his boots on, and
asked to see the owner of it, saying that he was on his travels, but
did not wish to pass so near the castle of such a noble gentleman
without paying his respects to him. When the Ogre heard this message,
he went to the door, received the cat as civilly as an Ogre can, and
begged him to walk in and repose himself.

Thank you, sir, said the cat; but first I hope you will satisfy a
traveller's curiosity. I have heard in far countries of your many
remarkable qualities, and especially how you have the power to change
yourself into any sort of beast you choose--a lion for instance, or an
elephant.

That is quite true, replied the Ogre; and lest you should doubt it,
I will immediately become a lion.

He did so; and the cat was so frightened that he sprang up to the roof
of the castle and hid himself in the gutter--a proceeding rather
inconvenient on account of his boots, which were not exactly fitted to
walk with upon tiles. At length, perceiving that the Ogre had resumed
his original form, he came down again stealthily, and confessed that
he had been very much frightened.

But, sir, said he, it may be easy enough for such a big gentleman
as you to change himself into a large animal: I do not suppose you
can become a small one--a rat or mouse for instance. I have heard
that you can; still, for my part, I consider it quite impossible.

Impossible! cried the other, indignantly. You shall see! and
immediately the cat saw the Ogre no longer, but a little mouse running
along on the floor.

This was exactly what he wanted; and he did the very best a cat could
do, and the most natural under the circumstances--he sprang upon the
mouse and gobbled it up in a trice. So there was an end of the Ogre.

By this time the king had arrived opposite the castle, and was seized
with a strong desire to enter it. The cat, hearing the noise of the
carriage-wheels, ran forward in a great hurry, and standing at the
gate, said in a loud voice, Welcome, sire, to the castle of my lord
the Marquis of Carabas.

What! cried his majesty, very much surprised, does the castle also
belong to you? Truly, Marquis, you have kept your secret well up to
the last minute. I have never seen anything finer than this courtyard
and these battlements. Indeed, I have nothing like them in the whole
of my dominions.

The Marquis, without speaking, offered his hand to the princess to
assist her to descend, and, standing aside that the king might enter
first--for he had already acquired all the manners of a
court--followed his majesty to the great hall, where a magnificent
collation was laid out, and where, without more delay, they all sat
down to feast.

Before the banquet was over, the king, charmed with the good qualities
of the Marquis of Carabas--and likewise with his wine, of which he had
drunk six or seven cups--said, bowing across the table at which the
princess and the miller's son were talking very confidentially
together, It rests with you, Marquis, whether you will not become my
son-in-law.

I shall be only too happy, said the complaisant Marquis, and the
princess's cast-down eyes declared the same.

So they were married the very next day, and took possession of the
Ogre's castle, and of everything that had belonged to him.

As for the cat, he became at once a grand personage, and had never
more any need to run after mice, except for his own diversion.





Next: The Wolf And The Seven Young Goslings

Previous: Little Red-riding-hood



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