(illustration by Gustave Dore)
The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots
(a French tale by Perrault)
"My brothers," said he, "may get their living handsomely enough by joining their stocks together, but for my part, when I have eaten up my cat, and made me a muff of his skin, I must die of hunger."
The Cat, who heard all this, but made as if he did not, said to him with a grave and serious air: "Do not thus afflict yourself, my good master. You have nothing else to do but to give me a bag and get a pair of boots made for me that I may scamper through the dirt and the brambles, and you shall see that you have not so bad a portion in me as you imagine."
The Cat's master did not build very much upon what he said. He had often seen him play a great many cunning tricks to catch rats and mice, as when he used to hang by the heels or hide himself in the meal and make as if he were dead, so that he did not altogether despair of his affording him some help in his miserable condition.
When the Cat had what he asked for, he booted himself very gallantly and, putting his bag about his neck, he held the strings of it in his two forepaws and went into a warren where was great abundance of rabbits. He put bran and sow-thistle into his bag and, stretching out at length, as if he had been dead, he waited for some young rabbits, not yet acquainted with the deceits of the world, to come and rummage his bag for what he had put into it.
Scarce was he lain down but he had what he wanted. A rash and foolish young rabbit jumped into his bag, and Monsieur Puss, immediately drawing close the strings, took and killed him without pity. Proud of his prey, he went with it to the palace and asked to speak with his majesty.
He was shown upstairs into the King's apartment, and, making a low reverence, said to him: "I have brought you, sir, a rabbit of the warren, which my noble lord the Marquis of Carabas" (for that was the title which Puss was pleased to give his master) "has commanded me to present to Your Majesty from him."
"Tell thy master," said the king, "that I thank him and that he does me a great deal of pleasure."
Another time he went and hid himself among some standing corn, holding still his bag open, and when a brace of partridges ran into it, he drew the strings and so caught them both. He went and made a present of these to the king, as he had done before of the rabbit which he took in the warren. The king, in like manner, received the partridges with great pleasure and ordered him some money for drink.
The Cat continued for two or three months thus to carry his Majesty, from time to time, game of his master's taking. One day in particular, when he knew for certain that he was to take the air along the river-side with his daughter, the most beautiful princess in the world, he said to his master: "If you will follow my advice, your fortune is made. You have nothing else to do but go and wash yourself in the river in that part I shall show you, and leave the rest to me."
The Marquis of Carabas did what the Cat advised him to, without knowing why or wherefore. While he was washing the King passed by, and the Cat began to cry out: "Help! help! My Lord Marquis of Carabas is going to be drowned."
At this noise, the King put his head out of the coach-window and, finding it was the Cat who had so often brought him such good game, he commanded his guards to run immediately to the assistance of his Lordship the Marquis of Carabas.
While they were drawing the poor Marquis out of the river, the Cat came up to the coach and told the King that, while his master was washing, there came by some rogues who went off with his clothes, though he had cried out: "Thieves! thieves!" several times, as loud as he could. (This cunning Cat had hidden the clothes under a great stone.) The King immediately commanded the officers of his wardrobe to run and fetch one of his best suits for the Lord Marquis of Carabas.
Next: Puss in Boots (cont.)