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The Marvelous Dog And The Wonderful Cat

from The Firelight Fairy Book





[Illustration: Background, books scattered on library shelves.
Foreground, a white dog with glasses and a black cat seated at a low
table, studying books and making notes.]


Once upon a time there was an old enchanter who taught magic and
enchantment to the younger fairies. Year after year, and morning after
morning, he was to be found at his school-room in the Fairies' College,
standing between his desk and a blackboard, now writing down the spell
for turning noses into turnips, now changing sunflower seeds into pearls
before the very eyes of his pupils.

The old enchanter liked this life of quiet and study, and doubtless
would have been teaching in Fairyland to this very day, had he not been
so unfortunate as to quarrel with the terrible sorcerer Zidoc, who was
then Lord High Chancellor of the Fairies' College. I have forgotten
exactly what the quarrel was about, but I think that it had to do with
the best spell for causing castles to fall to pieces in an instant. At
any rate, Zidoc, who considered himself quite the most wonderful
enchanter in Fairyland, was furious at being opposed, and told the old
enchanter, very angrily, that he was not to have his classes any more
and must leave the college at once. So the poor old gentleman packed up
his magic books, put his enchanter's wand into its silver case, and went
to the country one pleasant day in search of a house.

Thanks to the advice of a friendly chimney swift, it did not take him
long to find one. The dwelling was the property of the Fairy Jocapa. It
stood just off the high road, close by a lane of great oaks whose shiny,
fringed leaves glistened in the hot noon-day sun; it had a high roof
with sides steep as mountain slopes, and one great chimney; and its
second story thrust itself out over the first in the old-fashioned way.
Green fields, little hills, and pleasant meadows in which red and white
cows were grazing lay behind the dwelling.

Seeing the front door wide open, the enchanter walked in. It was very
quiet. Only the far away klingle-klangle of a cow-bell could be heard.

"Here shall I live," said the enchanter. And he brought his possessions
to the house.

Now, one autumnal morning, when a blue haze hung over the lonely fields
from which the reapers had departed, and the golden leaves were wet
underfoot, the old enchanter went for a walk down the lane, and finding
the day agreeable, kept on until he found himself in the woods. Arriving
at the crest of a little hill in the woodland, he saw below him, almost
at the foot of the slope, a countryman with a white puppy and a black
kitten following at his heels. The little dog barked merrily out of pure
high spirits, whilst the kitten leaped and struck with its tiny paws at
the passing white butterflies.

As the old enchanter approached the countryman, he happened to hear him
say to the animals,--

"Alas, my poor innocents, what a pity that I should have to abandon
you!"

"What's that?" said the enchanter, halting the countryman. "You intend
to abandon these helpless creatures?"

"Alas, I must," replied the countryman, pulling a large blue bandanna
handkerchief from his pocket and applying it to the corners of his eyes.
"We are too poor to be able to feed them, and my children love them so
well that I cannot find it in my heart to do them harm. I am taking them
into these woods to abandon them, in the hope that, like the wild
animals, they will soon learn to shift for themselves."

"Give them to me," said the old enchanter, "I will bring them up." The
countryman nodded his head. "As for you, here is a golden florin. May it
bring you better fortune."

Thus did the white puppy and black kitten change hands.

Once he had led the animals safely home, the enchanter resolved to make
them the most wonderful animals that had ever been seen in the whole
wide world, whether in Fairyland or out of it. Being an enchanter, he
could, of course, do this more easily than other people. So he taught
the cat and the dog all the known languages, then history, arithmetic,
dancing, social deportment, and a variety of the best magic and spells.
The cat, as was to be expected, was particularly good on anything that
had 'cat' in it; he once catalogued all the principal catastrophes;
while the dog, although a good student, had a fancy for writing
doggerel. Many and many a time, when the enchanter and his wonderful
animals were seated in their armchairs round a blazing fire, talking
exactly as any three good friends might talk, a nose would flatten
itself against the panes, and the three companions would see looking in
at them some stranger whose curiosity had got the better of his manners.

The dog, I may say, had grown up to be a fine fellow of the
short-haired, white bull terrier family; the cat had grown to be as
aristocratic as a panther. When their education was complete, the
animals came to their teacher and begged him to let them go away and see
the world. For a long time the enchanter, who loved his charges very
much indeed, resisted their request; but as they continued to press him,
he came at length to yield. Calling them before him, he said to them:--

"Well, dear pupils, if you must go, you must go. I owe the Fairy Jocapa
twelve months rent for this house. She is now living with her nephew,
the King of the Land of the Runaway Rivers. You shall take twelve golden
florins to her. Your route will take you over all the kingdoms of the
whole wide world."

So the white dog, who was the stronger of the two, took the purse with
the twelve golden coins, and put it in a large wallet which he wore at
his side, and then both the wonderful animals said good-bye. At the
corner of the lane they turned again to look for the last time at their
dwelling, and saw their old master still waving at them from the little
window over the door. Then they fared over the hills and far away.

So wise, so well-bred and good-tempered were these wonderful animals,
that their journey across the world was a great success from the
beginning. Their fame spread from kingdom to kingdom like wild-fire. The
universities, colleges, and other learned societies fought with each
other for the privilege of entertaining these distinguished students. To
this very day, the address which the cat made on catapults and
cataplasms, before the professors of the University of Sagessa, is
remembered as one of the great events of the time; while the dog's
address on dogma before the assembled scholars of the Royal Academy of
Fairyland was printed in a special book bound in gold leaf and walpus
leather. Both the cat and the dog were awarded countless honorary
decorations.

And so, little by little, they came to a hilly land in which all the
streams raced pell-mell to the sea, and there they knew themselves to
be in the Kingdom of the Runaway Rivers. A three days' journey brought
them to the royal castle. Arriving in the twilight, they were somewhat
surprised to find a number of torchbearers waiting for them in the
castle courtyard. With great respect, these attendants conducted the cat
and the dog into a little ante-room, and then retired, leaving them
alone. A few minutes later, a very old woman, who, the animals noticed,
was stone-blind, came to take them before the king.

"How strange!" whispered the cat in its rather meouw-y voice.

"Very," whispered back the dog in his deeper tone.

Having opened, one after the other, three great doors with three
different iron keys, the old woman, guiding herself by touching the wall
with her hand, led the animals into a long dark corridor. The cat, who
could see quite well in the dark, did not mind this, but the dog was not
particularly pleased. The echoes of the old woman's boots went rolling
along in the hollow darkness; the dog could hear his heart beat, and saw
his black companion's eyes glowing like pools of flame. Then, to their
mutual relief, the animals saw a point of light appearing far down the
passage, and on reaching this, they discovered a second blind old woman
holding a torch. The first old woman beckoned them to follow this new
guide, and disappeared again into the dark corridors by which they had
arrived.

The second old woman, lifting high the torch, first led her charges
through three more great doors, all of which she carefully locked behind
her. Soon the animals found themselves at the top of a winding stair
whose end was lost in darkness. Down this stair they went, turning, ever
turning, down and round, down and round, till both cat and dog felt
dizzily that they must have reached the heart of the earth. Then, little
by little, a pin-point of light began to glow brighter and brighter,
and the animals found themselves at the foot of the stairs and opposite
a little door. And there, by this door, stood another blind old woman,
who held a torch and beckoned to the animals to follow.

Three more doors they passed, the last one opening on a very narrow,
winding passage. In and out they turned, walking one behind the other,
for a time that seemed very, very long. Suddenly a narrow door appeared
in the winding wall, which opened inward as they drew near, revealing a
beautiful round chamber richly furnished and hung with the finest
tapestries. Beside the fireplace, in which a wood-fire was cheerily
burning, sat a gray-haired lady, who was no other than the Fairy Jocapa,
and in the centre of the room, reading a great book by the light of many
candles, sat a young man, the King.

In spite of the enchanter's careful training in manners, the cat and the
dog, I am sorry to say, almost stared for an instant at the King. Small
wonder that they did so, for the unfortunate young man lay under a
horrid spell, and his face and hands were not pink or white or
sun-brown, like yours or mine, but bright green, like a parrot's wing!

"Welcome, O wonderful animals," said the enchanted King. "Your fame has
gone before you into every land, and it is said that there is no
question you cannot answer. Listen, then, to my story and help me if you
can.

"You see me before you, hideously changed. Until you entered here, an
instant past, no eyes but those of my aunt had beheld my horrible
countenance. It was she who caused this enchanted chamber to appear in
the heart of the foundations of my castle; and in this chamber I have
hidden since that terrible hour when the spell was put upon me. My
subjects only know that I am still alive. The Lord Chancellor rules the
kingdom in my stead. But hearken to my story.

"Ten months ago, as I was driving my chariot down a narrow road built
along a river-bank close to the stream, I encountered a chariot being
driven furiously in the opposite direction. The driver of the chariot
was a tall, elderly man, wearing a wizard's cap; his face was red as
with anger, an evil light gleamed in his small malicious eyes. In order
to let him pass, I turned to one side, as near to the river-brink as I
dared; but the space was too narrow, our chariots locked wheels, and his
was overthrown. Turning upon me a face aflame with hatred, he cried out,
'I will teach you what it is to offend the Enchanter Zidoc'; and an
instant later the wizard himself, the struggling horses, and the
overturned chariot disappeared in a rumble of thunder and a great flash
of flame. I turned homeward, never noticing that anything had happened
to me. As I chanced to pass a roadside cottage, a little child playing
about saw me and ran, screaming for fear, to the door. A little farther
on, I stopped to drink of a spring. Judge of my horror when I leaned
over the clear pool of water and saw that my face had turned a bright
green! I waited till nightfall, stole into the castle unobserved, and
sought the aid of my aunt, the fairy. You know the rest. Speak, O
wonderful dog and wonderful cat, and bid me hope a little!"

And the poor King hid his bright green face in his hands.

"The Enchanter Zidoc is an old enemy of our dear master," said the white
dog, "and his power as a sorcerer is the greatest in Fairyland!'

"I have tried all my powers against him in vain," said the Fairy Jocapa,
sadly.

"But let us not despair," broke in the cat. "Zidoc is now to be found in
these dominions. His castle lies on the border of the Silver Hills. The
dog and I will go there, and see if we can help the King."

So the Fairy and the unhappy King thanked the wise animals, and sent for
the blind old women to lead them back to the upper world. Early next
morning, the famous pair began the journey to the Enchanter's den. The
dog's plan was to pretend to be but an everyday stray dog, and to this
end, he rolled several times in a mud-puddle; the cat, too, was to
appear as a stray cat, and neglected his fine black coat in order to
look the part.

Unfortunately for their plan, Zidoc had in his chamber a little
enchanted bell which rang shrilly when danger threatened him. Hearing
the bell ring late at night, Zidoc rose from his bed, and hurrying to
the turret window, saw, by the light of the waning moon, the dog and the
cat making their way to the castle through the wood. Rubbing his hands
with glee, he determined to let the two animals walk headlong into his
power, and then inflict upon them some terrible revenge.

The first day the dog went indoors, and concealed himself under a sofa,
while the cat remained outside. When twilight came, the dog ran out and
met the cat in the castle garden.

"Did you discover anything?" asked the cat.

"Nothing whatever," replied the dog.

"I will try to-morrow," said the cat.

And so, when the morning came, the dog remained outside while the cat
concealed himself behind a curtain. When the twilight came, the animals
met again.

"Did you discover anything?" asked the dog.

"Very little," replied the cat. "The Sorcerer Serponel is coming
to-morrow to pay Zidoc a visit. One of us must hide in the room in which
they will talk; for perhaps we may learn something which may help us to
lift the spell from the King."

"To-morrow it is my turn," said the dog. And so the next morning he
stole into the house and hid again beneath the sofa.

Now Zidoc knew very well where the dog had concealed himself. Moreover,
he had summoned the powerful Serponel to his aid in order that the dog
and the cat should have no opportunity to escape.

When Serponel arrived, both the wicked enchanters went to the room in
which the dog lay concealed. First, Zidoc locked the only door with a
great key and then he said to Serponel,--

"Brother, someone tells me that there is an enemy hidden under the
sofa."

"Yes, brother," replied the dreadful Serponel.

"And something tells me that it is time to let him feel your staff."

Now Zidoc had an enchanted staff whose blows were mortal, and knowing
this, the poor dog, who was trapped between the wall and the two
sorcerers, grew cold with fear to the tip of his white tail. Just as he
was about to make a bolt into the open, Zidoc dragged the sofa swiftly
aside, and aimed a terrible blow at him, which by the greatest good luck
just missed its mark. He then ran out into the room, pursued by the
sorcerers, who little by little forced him toward a corner.

And now, just as Zidoc, holding the staff uplifted, was about to strike
the poor dog with all his force, a black shape, with flaming eyes and
paws outstretched to scratch, leaped through the open window and landed
upon Zidoc's back. It was the brave cat, who had heard the fracas from
his hiding-place below and had clawed his way up the castle wall to help
his friend. Valiant Puss, forgetting in one instant, I must admit, all
its knowledge of languages, catastrophes, history, social deportment,
and agriculture, plunged instantly into the fray, and gave Zidoc a
frightful scratch, which so upset him that it caused him to drop his
staff, while the dog profiting by the confusion, and forgetting all
about geometry, mathematics, agriculture, and dogma, managed to give
Serponel a good bite just above the ankle.

The wily Zidoc, however, was not to be so easily thwarted. Uttering a
magic word, he caused the room to be filled with darkness, and in the
cover of this darkness he transformed himself instantly into a black cat
exactly like the learned cat, while Serponel changed himself into a
white dog exactly like the learned dog. At the same moment he caused the
locked door to fly open.

"Now," thought he, "I will cause the cat to follow the wrong white dog,
and the dog to follow the wrong cat; we shall thus separate the animals,
and when we have lured them far away from each other, Serponel and I
will resume our true forms, and destroy these meddlesome creatures."

When the darkness cleared, the hearts of the true animals fell for fear
lest the sorcerer's ruse be successful; but they met the challenge
readily, and instead of fleeing, stood their ground; the true dog
battling with the false dog, the real cat with the false cat. Never was
such a hullaballoo heard in Fairyland. Then, seeing that he was in
danger of being badly scratched, Zidoe brought on another darkness, the
floor of the castle shook, a noise as of thunder roared and rattled
through the room. When the darkness ended, both the enchanters had been
separated and the cats were confused, the real dog was chasing the real
cat, thinking that he was following Zidoc, while Serponel, who had been
the false white dog, was pursuing Zidoc, who had been the false black
cat! Down the stairs, over the terraces and the gardens ran the true
dog, pursuing the true cat, while indoors, up and down through the rooms
and over the furniture, raced the false animals.

The poor cat, thinking he was being pursued by the wrong dog, grew short
of breath, and, hearing the snapping at his heels, ran up a convenient
tree. Hardly had he reached a point above the dog's jaws when a voice
said:--

"Why, my pupils, my pupils! What a way to behave! Stop your quarreling
this instant!"

The animals turned to look, and saw their master, the old enchanter. He
had been worried by their long absence and had gone forth to look for
them. Thus, at the same moment that the poor dog saw that he had been
pursuing his friend, the cat saw that he had been escaping from his
comrade.

Suddenly a noise from the castle arrested their attention, and on
looking up, all saw through the windows the false dog pursuing the false
cat down the hall of state.

Now, if you remember the first part of this story, you will recall that
Zidoc quarreled with the old enchanter over the right spell for
destroying castles. A triumphant smile shone on the lips of the old
teacher; he stretched forth his hand toward the castle and uttered a
magic word.

There was a roar as of twenty thousand cataracts, and in the twinkling
of an eye, the castle collapsed in a cloud of dust, burying the two
wicked magicians in its ruins.

"There, I told him so!" said the old enchanter.

When the dog and the cat had recovered from the events of the day, the
three friends began their journey back to the palace of the enchanted
King. He came to the castle gate to meet them, for Zidoc's overthrow had
broken the spell which had so oddly disfigured him. Through the open
doors, a splendid banquet could be seen waiting, and the sound of music
was heard.

So the old enchanter gave his arm to the Fairy Jocapa, the Prince gave
his to the white dog, and the cat followed all by himself. Then came the
host of rejoicing courtiers.

When the festival was over, the enchanter and the wonderful animals went
back, loaded with royal gifts, to their own little house and lived
happily there to a good old age.





Next: The Shepherd Of Clouds

Previous: The Master Mariner



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