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The Fishing

from Old French Fairy Tales - Good Little Henry





At last, after so many labors and perils, Henry saw the lattice of the
garden in which the plant of life was growing and his heart bounded for
joy. He looked always upward as he walked, and went on as rapidly as his
strength would permit, when suddenly he fell into a hole. He sprang
backwards, looked anxiously around him and saw a ditch full of water,
large and long, so long indeed that he could not see either end.

"Without doubt this is that last obstacle of which the Crow spoke to
me," said Henry to himself. "Since I have overcome all my other
difficulties with the help of the good fairy Bienfaisante, she will
assist me to surmount this also. It was surely she who sent me the Cock,
the Crow and the Old Man, the Giant and the Wolf. I will wait patiently
till it shall please her to assist me this time."

On saying these words, Henry began to walk along the ditch, hoping to
find the end. He walked on steadily two days and found himself at the
end of that time just where he had started. Henry would not give way to
distress, he would not be discouraged; he seated himself on the borders
of the ditch and said:

"I will not move from this spot till the genius of the mountain allows
me to pass this ditch."

Henry had just uttered these words when an enormous Cat appeared before
him and began to mew so horribly that he was almost deafened by the
sound. The Cat said to him:

"What are you doing here? Do you not know that I could tear you to
pieces with one stroke of my claws?"

"I do not doubt your power, Mr. Cat, but you will not do so when you
know that I am seeking the plant of life to save my poor mother who is
dying. If you will permit me to pass your ditch, I will do anything in
my power to please you."

"Will you?" said the Cat. "Well, then, listen; your countenance pleases
me. If, therefore, you will catch all the fish in this ditch and salt
and cook them, I will pass you over to the other side, on the faith of a
Cat!"

Henry advanced some steps and saw lines, fish-hooks, bait, and nets on
the ground. He took a net, and hoped that by one vigorous haul he would
take many fish and that he would succeed much better than with a line
and hook. He threw the net and drew it in with great caution. But alas!
he had caught nothing!

Disappointed, Henry thought he had not been adroit. He threw the net
again and drew it very softly: still nothing!

Henry was patient. For ten days he tried faithfully without having
caught a single fish. Then he gave up the net and tried the hook and
line. He waited an hour, two hours;--not a single fish bit at the bait!
He moved from place to place, till he had gone entirely around the
ditch. He tried diligently fifteen days and caught not a single fish. He
knew not now what to do. He thought of the good fairy Bienfaisante, who
had abandoned him at the end of his undertaking. He seated himself sadly
and gazed intently at the ditch when suddenly the water began to boil
and he saw the head of a Frog appear.

"Henry," said the Frog, "you saved my life--I wish now to save yours in
return. If you do not execute the orders of the Cat of the mountain he
will eat you for his breakfast. You cannot catch the fish because the
water is so deep and they take refuge at the bottom. But allow me to act
for you. Light your fire for cooking and prepare your vessels for
salting. I will bring you the fish."

Saying these words, the Frog plunged back into the water. Henry saw that
the waves were agitated and boiling up, as if a grand contest was going
on at the bottom of the ditch. In a moment, however, the Frog
reappeared, sprang ashore and deposited a superb salmon which he had
caught. Henry had scarcely time to seize the salmon when the Frog leaped
ashore with a carp. During sixty days the Frog continued his labors.
Henry cooked the large fish and threw the little ones into the casks to
be salted. Finally, at the end of two months, the Frog leaped towards
Henry and said:

"There is not now a single fish in the ditch. You can call the Cat of
the mountain."

Henry thanked the Frog heartily, who extended his wet foot towards him,
in sign of friendship. Henry pressed it affectionately and gratefully
and the Frog disappeared.

It took Henry fifteen days to arrange properly all the large fish he had
cooked and all the casks of small fish he had salted. He then called the
Cat, who appeared immediately.

"Mr. Cat," said Henry, "here are all your fish cooked and salted. Will
you now keep your promise and pass me over to the other side?"

The Cat examined the fish and the casks; tasted a salted and a cooked
fish, licked his lips, smiled and said to Henry:

"You are a brave boy! I will recompense your fortitude and patience. It
shall never be said that the Cat of the mountain does not pay his
servants."

Saying these words, the Cat tore off one of his own claws and said,
handing it to Henry:

"When you are sick or feel yourself growing old, touch your forehead
with this claw. Sickness, suffering and old age will disappear. This
miraculous claw will have the same virtue for all that you love and all
who love you."

Henry thanked the Cat most warmly, took the precious claw and wished to
try its powers immediately, as he felt painfully weary. The claw had
scarcely touched his brow when he felt as fresh and vigorous as if he
had just left his bed.

The Cat looked on smiling, and said: "Now get on my tail."

Henry obeyed. He was no sooner seated on the Cat's tail than he saw the
tail lengthen itself till it reached across the ditch.





Next: The Plant Of Life

Previous: The Chase



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