Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Tales From Catland, for Little Kittens
Author: Grimalkin, Tabitha
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales From Catland, for Little Kittens" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



       *       *       *       *       *

    +-----------------------------------------------------------+
    | Transcriber's Note:                                       |
    |                                                           |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has     |
    | been preserved.                                           |
    |                                                           |
    | Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For     |
    | a complete list, please see the end of this document.     |
    |                                                           |
    +-----------------------------------------------------------+

       *       *       *       *       *



[Illustration: TALES FROM CATLAND.]



    TALES FROM CATLAND,

    FOR

    LITTLE KITTENS.

    BY

    AN OLD TABBY.


    With Engravings from Designs by Billings.


    BOSTON:
    TICKNOR, REED, AND FIELDS.
    MDCCCLII.



BOSTON:
THURSTON, TORRY, AND EMERSON,
Printers, Devonshire Street.



TO THE

KITTENS OF ENGLAND,

THE FOLLOWING PAGES

ARE VERY AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED,

BY THEIR

SINCERE FRIEND AND WELL-WISHER,

Tabitha Grimalkin.



TALES FROM CATLAND.



THE THREE CATS.


Many hundred years ago, in the good old times of the fairies, there
lived a young princess in a very grand palace. Its walls were of the
purest white marble, the doors were of orange-wood, the window-frames
were of gold, and the furniture of the rooms was of the most costly
description. The princess's drawing-room was hung with beautiful
tapestry, the curtains were of the richest crimson silk, all over
golden flowers, the mirrors reached from the floor to the ceiling, and
the chairs were of ebony inlaid with precious stones. And the princess
had two hundred and four best gowns, some of cloth of gold, some of
silver tissue; besides a great many others, nearly as good, that she
wore every day.

But my story has not so much to do with the princess, as with her
_cats_, for she had two; an elderly one, called Glumdalkin, and a very
frolicsome young one whose name was Friskarina. Glumdalkin was,
somehow or other, second cousin once removed to Friskarina, but years
older; and, to say the truth, Friskarina was not very fond of her:
however, in consideration of her age and relationship, she behaved on
the whole very civilly and respectfully to her. They were so very
different. And there was not the least family likeness, either, in
their persons. Glumdalkin was jet black, had an uncommonly cross pair
of green eyes, that seemed always on the look-out for something going
wrong, was very fat, and moved as if it was too much trouble to her to
walk across the room; while Friskarina's coat was of the richest
tortoise-shell, and though she was quite plump, and as sleek as
satin, yet there was not a more lively little creature in all Catland;
it quite did one good to see her jumping over the foot-stools in the
princess's drawing-room. She had a prodigious longing, sometimes, to
jump over cousin Glum's great broad back, as she sat before the fire;
but she knew _that_ would never do, so she was prudent, and contented
herself with scampering over the furniture; while Glumdalkin,
pretending to be sound asleep all the time, would be watching her with
one eye open the least bit in the world, and secretly wishing that
Friskarina might be unlucky enough to dash down one of the princess's
old china jars that stood under the table.

It was a cold winter's evening--_very_ cold--and the pages had drawn
the thick crimson curtains in the drawing-room, and the fire had been
mended, and was piled high up, blazing and crackling; the candles were
lighted, and Glumdalkin's velvet cushion had been placed ready for her
in front of the fire, and she was slowly crawling towards it, that
she might stretch herself out at full length, and digest the wing of a
boiled fowl that she had just been dining upon. The princess was lying
on the sofa by the side of the fire, apparently fast asleep. But she
was not asleep; and, moreover, she was watching Glumdalkin, who had
settled herself very comfortably on her cushion, while Friskarina,
looking much graver than usual, was sitting with her shoulders drawn
up to her ears, in quite an old cattish attitude, and her bright
shining eyes fixed thoughtfully on the fire.

Now you must know that the princess had an old aunt who was a fairy;
and she had bestowed upon her niece the faculty of understanding the
language of animals; a very amusing gift it was, and the princess
often derived great diversion from it. On the present occasion, as she
lay on her sofa after dinner, she thought it would be very good
entertainment to hear what Glumdalkin and Friskarina might be talking
about.

But some time passed before either said anything; at last, Glumdalkin
gave a great yawn, and flapping her tail rather angrily against the
cushion, remarked:

'Really, Friskarina, you are dreadfully stupid, to-night; you make
noise enough when I want to go to sleep: but now, when I am inclined
for a little rational conversation, you sit there as mum and sulky as
an old bear.'

Friskarina was used to polite observations from her second cousin once
removed, so she very quietly answered that she thought Glumdalkin had
been going to take a nap, and that she did not wish to disturb her.

'Well, I do admire that!' exclaimed Glumdalkin; 'you are wonderfully
considerate, all at once; now, _I_ think, Miss Friskarina, you have
been getting into mischief, and that's the reason you sit so quiet
there. I should like to know where you were all this morning, when the
pages were running all over the house after you, because the princess
wanted you, and nobody could find you? Well, people have strange
tastes! I should have thought she would have found the company of a
grave, decorous cat, like myself, who knows the ways of the court, and
has seen something of society, a great deal more agreeable than that
of such a ridiculous, light-headed thing as you are: I declare you
make me quite nervous very often, you jump about so! But she never
sent for _me_; so of course I could not go to her. The world's very
unlike what it was when I was young--very unlike indeed!' and, giving
an odd kind of grunt in her throat, Glumdalkin curled herself round on
the other side, as if in a sort of despair at the wickedness of the
world.

Friskarina thought she had not much to complain of, but she did not
venture to say it; so she answered, quite good-naturedly:

'I am very sorry, cousin Glumdalkin, that I was out when the princess
called for me, but _indeed_ I was in no mischief; I was seeing such
strange sights, it has made me quite unhappy ever since I came back.'

'Humph!' said Glumdalkin, 'and pray what wonderful things have you
been seeing?'

'Why,' replied Friskarina, 'I got uncommonly tired this morning of the
palace garden, I know every stick and stone in it so well. I had been
racing nine times round the gravel walk, and had got half way round to
make up ten, when, luckily, I saw that the gardener had left the outer
door ajar; so I thought I might as well take the opportunity of seeing
what there was on the other side of the wall; accordingly I peeped out
and found that I was in a kind of road, with some such odd looking
things, here and there, I don't know what to call them, but I fancy
people live in them, for I saw some persons going into one of them.
They were not in the least like this house that the princess lives in;
I am sure Grandmagnificolowsky, the tall page, could never have stood
upright in any one of them--and so black and dismal and dirty they
looked!'

'And you went into one of the nasty places, of course?' growled
Glumdalkin; '_cottages_, child, they are called.'

'You shall hear all, in good time,' answered Friskarina; 'I was
peeping about, outside our garden door, rather afraid to venture
further, when I saw _such_ a cat come out of one of these cottages, as
you call them--O Glumdalkin! it really would have made your heart ache
to have seen her. I had no idea there were such cats in the world. It
was dreadful to look at her; she was so horribly thin, you might have
counted her bones, and as dirty as if she had lived all her life in a
coal-hole: she crawled out of the door as if she had hardly strength
to walk, and _such_ a thin tail she had; it made me shudder to look at
her. I couldn't help going up and asking her what was the matter with
her----'

'What!' interrupted Glumdalkin, rousing herself up, her eyes flashing
fire, and her whiskers standing on end, 'do you mean to say, that
_you_--a cat descended from such an honorable and distinguished
family as ours--one of the most ancient in Catland--that you actually
demeaned yourself so far as to enter into conversation with a filthy,
beggarly wretch, crawling out of a miserable cottage? Friskarina, on
the honor of a cat, I am ashamed of you.'

'I certainly _did_ enter into conversation with her,' replied
Friskarina, plucking up a little spirit; 'for I asked her where she
lived, and why she was so thin and dirty.'

'I wonder,' said Glumdalkin, 'how you could bear to go near her.'

'But, one couldn't help it, you know,' said Friskarina, 'when she
looked so very wretched. Poor thing! when I asked her how it was she
was so thin, the tears came into her eyes, and she said, she had so
very little to eat. I asked her if her mistress never gave her any
cream? and--would you believe it?--she actually asked me what cream
was.'

'Why, you simple child,' said Glumdalkin, 'do you suppose _cottage_
cats ever taste such a thing? They think themselves lucky if they can
get a drop of skimmed milk now and then----' (Some people suspected,
but this is _quite_ between ourselves, that Glumdalkin, though she
boasted that she had never been outside the walls of the palace garden
in her life, knew more about the ways of cats in humble stations than
she chose to confess--her father, it was said, had married sadly
beneath his family.)

'I don't believe,' continued Friskarina, 'that _that_ poor cat ever
gets even skimmed milk; for she told me her mistress could not get
enough to eat herself, and that she hardly ever gave _her_ anything at
all; so that all she lives upon is a chance mouse, when she can catch
it, or the black beetles she finds on the floor at night. And when she
is thirsty, she goes to a gutter that runs by the side of the road,
and laps a little muddy water. Only fancy what a dreadful life to
lead. I had no notion that there was a cat in the world so badly off.
I really could not eat my dinner to-day, for thinking about it. It
seems so sad, to have all these nice things, all the great saucers of
cream that we have for breakfast, and these soft cushions to sleep
upon, and then to think of that poor cat, so near us, catching black
beetles (nasty things!) for her supper, and lapping out of the dirty
gutter; it makes me quite wretched.'

'Friskarina;' said Glumdalkin, rising from her velvet cushion, with a
great deal of majesty in her air, and curling her tail very solemnly
round her toes--'Friskarina, let us have no more of this nonsense, if
you please! I consider your behavior this morning, and your
conversation at present, utterly beneath the dignity of a cat of
condition. Remember the distinguished family from which you have
sprung, and that you have the honor to belong to the household of the
princess--so, pray, let me hear no more of making acquaintances among
the vulgar cats of the village; you will be a disgrace to the court!'

Friskarina shrugged her shoulders, and replied, in rather an
under-tone, 'that she really did not see anything _disgraceful_ in
being sorry for the unfortunate----' to which Glumdalkin made no
answer. She seemed to be seized with a violent fit of cleanliness, and
began washing and biting her right paw with extraordinary vehemence.

Just then, the entrance of Grandmagnificolowsky, and three or four
more of the pages, with the princess's supper, put an end to the
conversation. A fine gold dish, containing several dainty morsels,
which the princess had carved with her own royal hands, was put down
upon the velvet cushion, and Glumdalkin did them full justice.

When supper was over, two of the maids of honor carried the two cats
to their beds, where we will leave them for the night, in pretty
little baskets lined with yellow satin, and made so delightfully soft
and warm, that it almost made one go to sleep only to look at them.
Nevertheless, Friskarina lay awake a whole quarter of an hour,
turning over a plan in her little head, that she meant to try and
bring to pass the next day, if possible.

Glumdalkin was fast asleep in a minute. What was the princess doing?
She was lying in her splendid bed, thinking and watching the
fire-light dancing upon the spangles of her curtains, for her bed was
so beautiful--so very beautiful! It was made all of silver, in the
shape of a nautilus shell; and the curtains were of pale blue satin,
embroidered with silver flowers: you never saw such a lovely bed as it
was! And the longer the princess watched the light flashing so merrily
upon all the fine things in the room, the more she thought; and the
more she thought, the more unhappy she grew, but what she thought
about I can't tell you; perhaps we shall guess by and bye: I dare say
she dropped asleep at last.

During the night there was a heavy fall of snow. When the princess
came down to breakfast, the grass was covered with a sheet of pure
white--the trees quivered beneath the snow that covered their
boughs--the shrubs in the garden looked like a fairy-wood of frosted
silver glittering in the cold, bright sun--and far, far away, many
miles distant, rose high mountains, white and dreary, with pine
forests nodding on their summits. It was very--very cold.

Now there were few things Friskarina liked better than a gambol in the
snow; so, as soon as she had finished her breakfast, and had warmed
herself well at the fire, off she set, full drive, into the garden,
pattering hither and thither, that she might have the pleasure of
making as many footmarks as possible, and jumping up at the flakes
that came tumbling down from the laurel-leaves. Never was there such a
merry little cat! At last the thought struck her--the poor cottage
cat--did she like the snow, too? and Friskarina longed to know whether
she could come out that morning: perhaps she meant to sit by the fire
all day. By degrees, Friskarina recollected that she went to sleep the
night before with a plan in her head. So she ran down the lawn
towards the garden door, hoping to find it again open. Alas! the
ill-natured gardener had shut it quite fast. However, Friskarina was
not easily daunted; a cat of genius is never without resources. She
turned her eyes towards a thick trailing of ivy that grew up the wall,
and she began to wonder whether cousin Glumdalkin would be likely to
spy her out if she climbed up the ivy-tree, and so got over the wall
that way. She considered, however, that on such a morning as that,
Glumdalkin would be sure to be on the hearth-rug, with her nose as
close to the fender as possible, not troubling her head in the least
about the world out of doors.

So, making a vigorous spring, Friskarina was soon half-way up the
ivy-tree, shaking down a shower of white flakes every jump she made.
At length she was fairly at the top of the wall. It was a terrible
height from the ground, and there was no ivy on the other side to help
her down by.

So she sat down to rest, and look about her a minute. The miserable
cottages looked still _more_ miserable than they had done the day
before--the snow lay thick on their roofs--no smoke issued from their
chimneys--no one seemed stirring about them. Nothing could well be
more desolate.

Suddenly, the door of one of them opened, and an old woman came out,
followed by Friskarina's new friend, the unhappy cat. Such an old
woman Friskarina had never beheld, nor imagined, before. She was not a
bit like the Lady Dumbellinda, the princess's governess, the only old
lady Friskarina had ever seen, for _she_ was very fat, and had very
rosy cheeks, and very smooth hair, in set curls that never seemed to
get out of order; and she had very fine velvet gowns, and beautiful
clothes. But this poor old woman, who came out of the hut, was all
shrivelled up, as it were, and seemed as if she had hardly a bit of
flesh on her bones, and her hair was nearly as white as the snow, and
the wind blew it from under her cap in all directions; she had an old
rag of a gray cloak on, that she tried to keep about her, with one
hand, as well as she could, but the wind got in so through the holes,
that she might almost as well have been without it. She had come out
to look for sticks; for the gusts that swept down from the hills
snapped off the little twigs from the tall trees, and scattered them
about the road. After picking up a few, the poor old creature, shaking
her head, and shivering beneath the cold blast, turned back, and
re-entered her cottage; shutting her door after her, so that her cat
was left without. Poor pussy soon spied her friend, who had spoken so
condescendingly to her the day before, on the top of the wall, and she
saluted her with an air of the greatest deference and humility.

Friskarina returned her a gracious bow, and, without further
hesitation, dropped down from the wall.

It was lucky for her that there was a good thick bed of snow at the
bottom, so that she fell soft; but she rolled quite over. However,
she was nothing the worse, and she ran up to her new acquaintance;
and, after remarking what a snowy morning it was, demanded her name.

'My mistress calls me Tibb, please your ladyship;' said the poor
little cat, shaking with the cold.

'I did not know whether I should see you this morning,' pursued
Friskarina, 'I thought you might be sitting by the fire all day, as it
is so very cold.'

'Dear ma'am, we have no fire!' exclaimed poor Tibb, as if astonished
at the very idea of such a luxury; 'my mistress won't have a fire till
she wants to boil her dinner.'

'Then how do you ever keep yourself warm?' asked Friskarina, quite
horror-struck.

'Please, my lady, I never _am_ warm,' said poor Tibb, in a very
melancholy voice.

Friskarina was ready to cry, 'And you say they never give you any
dinner, either?' she said.

'Very seldom, indeed, your ladyship.'

'But your mistress must be dreadfully cruel,' exclaimed Friskarina,
'to take no more care of you than that!'

'What can she do?' replied Tibb, 'she has not got enough for herself
and her daughter, so it is not likely she can give me anything. If
your gracious ladyship would just please to step this way, and peep
under the door, you will see how my mistress lives.' So saying, Tibb
led the way to the hut; and Friskarina, crouching down to a very wide
chink under the door, saw a dwelling, the mere notion of which had
never entered her imagination till that moment.

'And have you lived _here_ all your life?' she said, drawing back at
length, and looking with the most sincere compassion at Tibb.

'Where else could I go, my lady?' replied the poor cat; 'it is better
than lying in the road.'

'And you absolutely don't know what it is to have a good dinner? How
very shocking! But now listen to me, Tibb; do you think you can
manage to climb over that wall?'

'I can but try,' replied Tibb, looking as if she began to have an
indistinct idea that her new friend meant to do something for her.

'Then,' continued Friskarina, 'if you will follow me, and keep quiet
behind the trees in the garden, I will give you part of my dinner
every day.'

Tibb's eyes sparkled as they had never sparkled before, at this
generous proposal; and, running to the wall, by the help of a
projecting stone here and there, she was presently at the top; then,
turning round, she watched Friskarina ascending after her. To scramble
down by the ivy-branches was the work of a moment, and the two cats
were soon hidden behind some low evergreen bushes that grew in front
of the wall.

'Now lie quiet here,' said Friskarina, 'till I come and call you.' So
saying, she scampered off through the snow towards the palace. The
door of the princess's drawing-room was not quite shut, so Friskarina
softly pushed it a little open, and peeped cautiously in.

Just as she expected, there sat Glumdalkin, on a high stool close by
the fire, looking more _solid_ than ever, and her back so awfully
broad! Moreover, she did not look by any means in the best of humors;
but she unbuttoned her eyes a very little atom as Friskarina came
towards the fire, and in a very gruff voice, asked her where she had
been so long?

'I'll tell you directly,' replied Friskarina; 'but really I must get a
little warm first, my jaws are quite stiff.'

'And it serves you right, too,' remarked the amiable Glumdalkin; 'if
you _will_ go out in the snow, when you might have a good warm house
over your head, and sit by the fire, you must take the consequences.'

Now, from some cause or other, Friskarina felt just then in a very
particularly good humor; so she answered, in a very cheerful tone,
that she was quite ready to take all the consequences, and that she
hoped _some_ good ones, at least, would follow from her going out that
morning.--'Though, indeed,' she added, 'I have been seeing some very
sad things.'

'Then, as sure as cream is cream,' exclaimed Glumdalkin, quite
fiercely, 'you've been talking to that good-for-nothing wretch of a
cat again. I am astonished at you, Friskarina!'

'Now, my dear cousin,' answered Friskarina, very quietly, 'just hear
me--let us talk the matter over a little: I am sure you would feel
just as I do about it, if you had been with me this morning.'

'Humph,' muttered Glumdalkin, '_I'm_ not sure of that at all. But,
tell your story, child. We shan't have any peace, I suppose, till you
have.'

Friskarina gulphed down a rather sharp speech that was just at the end
of her tongue, and went on with the recital of her adventures:--'I
have certainly seen the poor cat; and the cottage, too, in which she
lives--O Glumdalkin! such a place it is, you never saw anything like
it; there was not a bit of fire on the hearth, and in one corner there
lay a woman on a heap of straw, with an old rug over her. She was not
at all like the princess, or the maids of honor, for she had such a
thin white face, and such skinny hands, it was dreadful to look at
her--she was quite as thin as the poor cat: and the old woman, I mean
the cat's mistress, was stooping over her, and giving her something
out of a broken cup. Poor old woman! she groaned so, when she looked
at her, that it really went to my heart to hear her.'

'And pray,' interrupted Glumdalkin, 'what's all this to us? I do think
you take quite a delight in making one low spirited; as if the day
wasn't quite dismal enough already. Of course, one's very sorry for
the people, and all that sort of thing, but what good can _you_ do, I
should like to know, poking your nose into such places? You can't do
anything for them; and why should you put yourself into such a
ridiculous fuss? If you were the princess, now, you _might_ help the
people--but you, a cat, what can you do? It's no concern of yours.'

'It is too true,' sighed Friskarina, 'I can do no good to the old
woman and her sick daughter; but, with your leave, Cousin Glumdalkin,
I _can_ do something for the poor cat, and that will be better than
nothing: if one can't do what one would, one ought to do what one can.
And now, my dear good Cousin Glumdalkin, I want you to lend me a
helping paw, if you please.'

'Well, what now?' grumbled Glumdalkin.

'Why, you know they always give us our dinner behind the laurel trees,
on the grass, and you know, too, that they give us more than we want;
indeed, more than is good for us--for don't you remember, when you
were ill last autumn, the doctor said you ought to live more
sparingly? and they never take away the bits when we have done; so
that it is all our own property, and I was thinking that if you would
be so very kind as to leave a bone or two that you really don't want,
and I will do the same, the poor----'

Astonishment and indignation had, so far, kept Glumdalkin silent; but
now, finding voice once more, she burst forth into a perfect torrent
of wrath, declaring that not one bone would she leave--no! that she
wouldn't. _She_ wouldn't be answerable for bringing a parcel of
thieving cats about the house--a pretty thing indeed!--what did
Friskarina think the princess would say?

Friskarina meekly replied, that there would certainly be no thieving
in the case; for that their dinner was all their own, and if they did
not eat it all, it would only be left on the grass, to moulder away;
and she really could not think the princess would have any objection
to their relieving the poor cat's want, out of their own abundance.
But these, and other similar arguments were all wasted upon the
selfish Glumdalkin: she jumped down from her stool in a passion,
turned her back upon Friskarina, rolled herself round into a great
black ball, and seemed in a few moments to be fast asleep. Not that
she was asleep, though; and her bad humor was not much mended by
hearing the princess, who was lying on her sofa, call Friskarina to
her, in her most endearing accents:--'Her dear, good, darling little
Friskarina.'

'It's most uncommonly odd that she never calls for _me_,' thought
Glumdalkin.

Meanwhile, Friskarina had jumped up to her mistress, who stroked her
fondly, and kissed her, and Friskarina felt her face wet with tears.

'What can be the matter with the princess?' thought she; 'I am sure
_she_ can't have any troubles; O I wish she could see that poor woman
in the cottage!'

One o'clock--and the great bell of the palace rang--and then the cats
always went down to dinner, and the princess went down to her
luncheon. And a grand luncheon it was, for it happened that day to be
the princess's birth-day, and three of her cousins were coming to dine
with her, and they were going to have _such_ a plum-pudding--so _very_
big; and there was to be an elephant and castle, made of sugar, all
over gilding, at the top. But, somehow, when the princess sat down to
her luncheon, she did not look happy, notwithstanding her birth-day,
and her three cousins, and the great plum-pudding they were going to
have.

'May it please your royal highness,' said the tall page,
Grandmagnificolowsky, 'shall I put the cats' meat in the hall for
them, as the snow is so deep in the garden, to-day?'

'No, no, nonsense!' replied the princess, who had just helped herself
to the breast of a partridge, 'put it in the old place in the garden;
and here--put this wing and leg upon the dish too.'

Did not Glumdalkin's eyes sparkle when she got to the dish, and found
the wing of the partridge; how she devoured it! She was really so
busy, that she actually was some minutes before she discovered that
Friskarina had gently drawn away a mutton bone, with some beautiful
picking upon it, to a spot at a little distance among the trees, and
that she had then come quietly back, and was making her own dinner
upon the drumstick of a chicken, which she was eating very
deliberately, as if she were trying to make it last as long as
possible. There was still the leg of the partridge left, and two or
three other very delicate tit-bits, besides two large slices of cold
roast-beef. Glumdalkin had hardly swallowed the last morsel of the
wing, and was just thinking about the leg, when, to her unspeakable
surprise, the house-door opened, and out came the princess, attended
by one of the maids of honor, and followed by Grandmagnificolowsky.
The ladies were muffled up in their fur cloaks, and the maid of honor
seemed to be carrying a basket. Poor famished Glumdalkin! so great was
her astonishment, that she positively paused, with her claw suspended
over the leg of the partridge, to see what her royal highness could
possibly be about.

The princess no sooner came up to the place where the cats were
dining, than, stopping, she commanded the page to carry Glumdalkin
back to the house. 'That cat will eat herself into an apoplexy,' she
said; 'I never saw such a greedy creature!'

The astonishment, the indignation of Glumdalkin, what words can
describe? It _has_ been said, that she positively set up her back and
hissed at the princess; but I can hardly believe _that_. However,
whether she did or not, it made no difference. Grandmagnificolowsky
picked her up, and carried her into the house, not without plenty of
scratches for his trouble. The princess and the maid of honor passed
on, and went out at the garden door.

Here was a golden opportunity for Friskarina! She ran behind the
bushes, where Tibb was munching her bone with all her might; and
telling her to eat all that was left upon the dish, sat by, watching
her with the utmost satisfaction in her countenance, though she
certainly had not had a very capital dinner herself. Poor little Tibb!
She looked as if she hardly knew how to eat, for sheer joy! However,
she _did_ finish at last; and then, running up to Friskarina, called
her her only friend--her deliverer from starvation--and said many
other very affectionate things besides. But Friskarina cut them short,
by begging her to go home without delay, for fear the gardener should
find her, and hang her up to the apple-tree. That conclusion of her
morning's adventures not appearing desirable to poor Tibb, she lost no
time in following her friend's advice, and, with a scramble or two,
was soon over the wall, and on her road home.

Now Friskarina had a strong idea that it would be advisable to keep
out of Glumdalkin's way that afternoon as long as possible, having a
pretty tolerable notion of the sort of temper her respected relative
would be most likely to be found in, so, cold as it was out-of-doors,
Friskarina could not muster resolution to go into the house till it
was really getting quite late, almost tea-time. So she amused herself
with making foot-marks in the snow, and running after the twigs that
the wind blew about, and such like diversions, till it got almost
dark, and she began to feel very hungry, for she had not had much
dinner. That put her in mind of her new friend; and she reflected,
with great satisfaction, that poor Tibb certainly was not nearly so
hungry that night as she had been before: and then she began to wonder
where the princess could have been going to, and whether she would see
the poor old woman at the cottage: and Friskarina thought what a fine
thing it must be to be a princess, and to be able to help people who
were in distress. What a great deal of good I would do! thought she,
as she threw herself down to rest upon a little heap of snow. I would
be so careful, and never waste anything; and I would have all the
bones saved for the poor cats round my palace; and,--O what a deal of
good I would do, if I were only a great lady, like the princess! Just
then, a very odd thought came into Friskarina's head. She began to
consider whether she _had_ done all the good she might have done, as
it was: and suddenly it struck her, that she had very often, indeed,
ate a great deal more dinner than she really wanted, just because it
happened to be nice; and she remembered, that once or twice old Bear,
the watch-dog, who was chained up in the yard, had said to her, how
glad he should be to have something more to eat; and yet it was very
odd, but it had never occurred to her, that she might so easily have
saved him a bone or two at her dinner time, and yet have had plenty
for herself too.

So poor little Friskarina hung her head down, and felt quite ashamed;
the tears came into her eyes. 'Poor Bear!' she said, 'I might have
helped you very often, if I had only thought about you. I'm afraid I
have been very selfish!'

And then she began to think, that perhaps it was rather unkind in her
not to go and look after poor old Glumdalkin, who was, no doubt, in no
very _happy_ mood. So, screwing up her courage as well as she could,
she trotted up stairs, and, finding that the princess was just
entering the drawing-room, she slipped in after her. The fire was
blazing gloriously; but, at first, Friskarina was quite unable to see
anything of her second cousin once removed, (I'm afraid Friskarina now
and then sincerely wished her removed altogether!) for though the fire
was bright, there were no candles in the room, and it was a very large
one, so that the further extremity of it was rather dark. So she began
looking round, for she could not imagine where the old cat could be
gone to: at last, quite at the far end, she thought she perceived some
black object behind one of the chairs, and, on going up to it, found
Glumdalkin, with her eyes closed, her head very erect, her tail curled
very tight round her toes, and her whole person apparently immovable,
except, now and then, an angry twitch at the end of her tail.

Friskarina saw plain enough that she was not asleep; so, as she really
felt rather sorry for her, she asked her if she did not feel cold,
sitting so far from the fire.

'I beg, Ma'am, you won't trouble yourself about me,' was the gracious
reply; 'if I chose to sit by the fire, I should do so: I suppose the
princess would not order me out!' this was said with such a strange
kind of hysterical laugh, that Friskarina thought she was going to
burst into a fit of crying.

'Come,' she said, kindly, 'don't be so unhappy, my dear Glumdalkin! I
am sure the princess did not mean to be unkind to you; I do think she
was only afraid you might, perhaps, not be quite careful enough--might
take more than was really good for you; I'm quite certain she did not
intend anything uncivil.'

'And do you mean to say,' screamed Glumdalkin, 'that, at my time of
life, I'm to be dictated to by a young thing like the princess, and
that I can't be trusted to eat my dinner? No, indeed, I won't submit
to it! _I'm_ not going to bear such indignities! The princess will
find out her mistake when I am gone.'

'But,' said Friskarina, very gently, 'what can you do?'

'Do!' said Glumdalkin, striking her paw with great violence upon the
top of a footstool, 'do! why, can't I leave the palace? You don't
suppose I shall remain here another day, do you? I shall look out for
another situation directly--a cat like myself won't go a-begging.'

Friskarina was so astonished at this sudden resolve, that it was a
minute or two before she could answer; at length, she quietly asked
when Glumdalkin intended to quit the palace.

'To-morrow, decidedly;' replied Glumdalkin, 'perhaps I may stay till
after dinner, there's a basket of fish just come in, and I am really
not strong enough to encounter the fatigue of the thing in a morning,
it will be a great trial to me--very great.' And Glumdalkin put her
paw up to her eyes for a few moments; but Friskarina thought it did
not look at all wet when she put it down.

'I am very much concerned for you,' she said; 'and I do strongly
recommend to you not to think of going away: you will be lost in the
snow, and I am sure you would not like to take shelter in any of the
cottages; think what wretched places they are! What will become of
you? you will lose your way in the woods, or fall a prey to some wild
beast; do pray think better of it.'

Glumdalkin sat silent for some minutes, seemingly plunged in the most
dismal meditations.

'Well,' she said, at length, in a rather mollified tone, 'I have no
doubt you would all miss me dreadfully; you, especially, Friskarina,
as you are so young and giddy, and so little able to take care of
yourself; we will see, I don't wish to do anything unkind by you--'

Just at that moment Grandmagnificolowsky entered with the princess's
supper; and as the princess called 'Puss! puss!' several times,
Glumdalkin was forced at last to present herself, being rather hungry
besides; so she lapped a saucer of cream that her mistress
condescended to pour out for her, much more thankfully than usual, and
then went off to bed, thinking that, after all, she _might_, perhaps,
vouchsafe to remain in the palace; and she dreamt all night that she
was being pursued by wolves in a forest, and was forced to take refuge
in a miserable hut, where she had nothing to eat but a bit of mouldy
cheese, and nothing to drink but a drop of muddy water.

What did little Friskarina dream about? I can't tell you; but the
first thing she thought of, when she awoke in the morning, was poor
Tibb, and the wretched cold bed she had that night--how different from
her own, with its nice soft warm cushions.

Glumdalkin got up later than usual, and looked nearly as cross as when
she went to bed; but she said nothing more about going: and
Friskarina took care at breakfast to show her every possible
good-natured attention; she gave her by much the largest share of the
cream, took the draughty side of the hearthrug herself, and, in short,
did everything she could to show that she was anxious to be kind and
civil to her; but all her little politenesses seemed nearly lost upon
Glumdalkin.

She sate, humped up, all the morning by the fire, with her shoulders
up to her ears, and with a gleam in her eyes, if anybody came near
her, that was positively savage.

The princess sat in her drawing-room, looking very thoughtful and
rather sad. It was certainly very stupid work in the drawing-room that
morning.

Friskarina got tired of such dull company, and set off into the
garden. But first of all, she ran down into the court-yard, to have a
little conversation with Bear, the watch-dog, and hear the news.
Moreover, she wanted to find out how Bear's own affairs were going on,
and whether he had enough to eat now. And so, after a little chat
about the weather, and the probability of the wolves coming down from
the mountains, and so forth, she ventured delicately to inquire into
the state of his finances, as regarded bones and such things; and she
learnt, to her great satisfaction, that, since the new cook came into
office, Bear had been living in clover, as it were. Come, thought
Friskarina, that's one good thing, however; now I may keep all my
spare bits for poor Tibb! So, after a little further conversation
about the affairs of the nation, for Bear was a great politician, and
read the 'Canine Guardian' three times a week, and talked very
learnedly about the game laws, the friends parted. Bear laid himself
down to sleep in his kennel, and Friskarina scampered off into the
garden, to watch for Tibb's descent over the wall.

Punctually as the great bell of the palace rung, Tibb's ears appeared
among the top leaves of the ivy, and in a second she was at her
benefactress's side, looking so much less miserable than she did at
first, that it quite rejoiced Friskarina to look at her.

And now the house door opened, and out came a page, carrying a large
dish full of chicken bones, slices of meat, pieces of fish, and such
like delicate morsels, and closely followed by Mrs. Glumdalkin, making
such a clamorous mewing that one would have thought she had had no
breakfast.

Tibb, luckily, was hidden by a low bush; or I would not answer for it
that Glumdalkin would not have flown at her. However, she was too much
taken up with her dinner just then to look about her; for seeing a
beautiful piece of cold sole among the bits on the dish, and being
dreadfully afraid that Friskarina might take a fancy to it, she seized
upon it, and swallowed such a great piece whole, that the back-bone
stuck in her throat, and she could neither get it up nor down. She
coughed--she gasped--but there the bone stuck,--she coughed again,
quite convulsively, still the bone remained immovable; Friskarina, who
was at a little distance, grew very much alarmed, and running up to
her, thumped her on the back; but all in vain, her struggles became
absolutely frightful to witness; she kicked, she groaned--she started
to her feet, and ran, in an agony, like a mad thing, twice round the
grass, shrieking with pain; at length, sinking down, completely
exhausted, she stretched out her limbs, quite stiff, and giving a
fearful groan, breathed her last!

Friskarina, exceedingly terrified, ran behind the bushes to call Tibb
to her assistance, for she did not know, at first, that Glumdalkin was
really dead: but what was her astonishment to find Tibb gone, and in
the place where she had left her, an odd looking old lady, in a red
satin petticoat, trimmed with gold fringe, a gray cloak, a hat with a
very high crown, and she carried in her hand a long ebony stick, with
a queer silver head to it.

'Come hither, pretty Friskarina!' cried the old lady; and stooping
down, she patted her back, saying, 'So you were going to save your
own dinner for me, you good little creature.' Friskarina looked at her
with the utmost amazement; and it was not much lessened when the old
Fairy (for it was the princess's aunt), stroking her again, thanked
her for the good lesson she had taught her niece. What a strange old
lady; thought Friskarina, what can she possibly mean?

Meanwhile, the princess had been looking out of the window, and
perceived her fairy aunt, with a little secret consternation, for she
was rather afraid of her; however, she hastened down stairs to receive
her, wondering all the time what she could be come for.

'So, niece!' was the old lady's salutation, 'I find you have been
indebted to your cat for the best lesson you have had for this many a
day.'

The princess stooped down to kiss the fairy's hand. 'It is too true,
indeed, dear aunt;' she replied, 'but I hope it is a lesson which I
shall be the better for as long as I live. I blush to think that I
should have been so long insensible to the wants and miseries of the
poor people who were dwelling so near me, till, as you say, my little
cat's example taught me how selfish and unfeeling I had been.'

'It is well for you, niece,' said the fairy, 'that you visited the
poor old woman's cottage yesterday, and took her what was needful to
supply her wants; for you little thought,' added the old woman,
laughing rather maliciously, 'that the poor miserable cat, who was
sitting behind the door, was your old aunt. I say, it was lucky for
you that you bethought yourself at last of your duty; or, I promise
you, the last should have been your very last night in your
palace--_that_ it should,' she continued with increasing vehemence,
striking her stick on the ground till the walk rang again. 'Let me
find things _very_ different when I pay you my next visit!' And with
these words, waving her ebony wand in the air, the fairy vanished; and
the princess found that her own fine dress had disappeared too, and
that a gown of plain gray cloth had taken its place.

But only imagine her consternation when she went into the palace! All
the gay things were gone out of the drawing-room; the thick velvet
curtains no longer hung from the windows--there were no soft easy
chairs--no pretty ornaments; her beautiful silver nautilus-shell, with
its pale blue satin curtains, was gone also; and in its place, there
was a plain little bed, with brown stuff furniture, so exceedingly
ugly and dismal, that the princess declared to herself she should
never be able to get a wink of sleep in it. In short, all her favorite
apartments wore an air of what seemed to her the most utter
desolation.

Yet the princess had all the necessaries of life left; there was
plenty of bread and meat in the larder, though all the dainty things
were gone; there were coals and wood enough in the cellar; she had a
good bed to lie upon; and her house was a palace still in comparison
with the cottage of the poor old woman who lived near her gate. But
she was some time in finding that out. Poor princess! when she looked
round her drawing-room, she burst into tears. Just then, a voice near
her said, 'They are taken away till you have learnt to pity others,
and to be unselfish!' She turned, and caught a glimpse of the Fairy's
red petticoat disappearing through the door-way.

When she was sufficiently recovered to go round the house, and see
what was left, she found, to her great satisfaction, that all her
money was spared, and she determined, in future, to make a very
different use of it.

The melancholy decease of Glumdalkin threw several distinguished
families in Catland into mourning; but I never heard that any body
particularly lamented her.

'And so the princess and Friskarina went on living together in the
palace?'

Why no, not exactly: but you shall hear about it. One fine bright
morning, not many days after the Fairy's visit, Friskarina was
sitting, all by herself, on the drawing-room window-seat, thinking
over all the wonderful things that had happened, when suddenly she
saw, flying past the house, a pair of milk-white doves, with silver
collars round their necks, and bearing between them what seemed to be
a small white box, which they gently placed upon the lawn, and then
they flew away. The white box grew taller and taller, larger and
larger; till, in a few minutes, there stood the loveliest little
cottage you ever beheld. Its walls were of the richest carved
ivory--there were two parlors in it, one for the winter, which faced
the south, and was lined with crimson velvet, and the other for
summer, hung with sea-green silk. The chairs and tables were of
satin-wood; the cups and saucers of the prettiest porcelain; and there
were crystal flower-pots in the windows, filled with maiden-blush
roses and lilies-of-the-valley. Over the door was written in golden
letters,

                    'A PRESENT FOR FRISKARINA.'

I do not think you ever beheld such a charming dwelling for a cat;
and Friskarina took possession of it, and commenced housekeeping
directly, and the princess presented her with a superb silver
cream-jug, towards her stock of furniture. And, as there were more
rooms in her cottage than she wanted for her own use, Friskarina took
in six infirm, homeless cats, advanced in life, and provided for them
as long as they lived; and when they died, she supplied their places
with others, equally necessitous. As Glumdalkin died without a will,
Friskarina, being her nearest relation, of course, succeeded to her
property, which chiefly consisted of that delightful soft bed, of
yellow satin, which I told you about before, and which, together with
her own, Friskarina immediately set aside for the use of the two
oldest and most rheumatic cats in her establishment.

And now I must tell you a little more about the princess: when the
Fairy paid her next visit to her, which was in about a year's time,
she found a great change for the better in her. Instead of lying in
her bed half the morning, she was up by six; instead of sitting all
day on the sofa, reading nothing but story-books and silly fairy-tales
(which, of course, sensible people never read), she studied wise books
of history and geography, and made flannel petticoats, and knitted
warm stockings for the poor, and went to see them at their own
dwellings: in short, she had become as useful as she had been idle and
selfish before. The wretched huts at her gate were gone, and in their
place was a very pretty row of cottages; and such nice, neat old
people lived in them--for, as for the young and healthy, the princess
ordered them to go out into the world and earn their own livelihood.

'But, did the princess ever get back her fine things?'

Why that is rather a puzzling question. Some people say that she never
did: others believe that the Fairy made her the offer of them, but
that she declined it, thinking that she should, perhaps, grow too fond
of them again: while some other people say, that the Fairy gave her
back those things which her high station as a princess required, but,
that the young lady herself begged her to keep those things which
would only have tended to make her vain and self-indulgent. And I am
very much disposed myself to think that this account of the matter is
the true one.

[Illustration]



THE DISCONTENTED CAT.


Once upon a time--I can't say exactly when it was--there stood a neat,
tidy little hut on the borders of a wild forest. A poor old woman
dwelt in this hut. She lived on the whole pretty comfortably; for,
though she was poor, she was able to keep a few goats, that supplied
her with milk, and a flock of chickens, that gave her fresh eggs every
morning: and then she had a small garden, which she cultivated with
her own hands, and that supplied her with cabbages and other
vegetables, besides gooseberries and apples for dumplings. Her goats
browsed upon the short grass just outside the garden, and her chickens
ran about everywhere, and picked up everything they could find. There
were some fine old trees which defended the cottage on three sides
from the cold winds, and the front was to the south; so it was very
snug and sheltered. The forest afforded her sticks and young logs for
fuel, so that she never was in want of a fire; and, altogether, she
managed to make out a pretty comfortable life of it, as times went.

The only friend and companion the old woman had, was her gray cat. Now,
the cat was a middle-aged cat: she had arrived at a time of life when
people grow reflective; and she sat by the hearth and reflected very
often. What did she reflect about? That is rather a long story. You
must know, then, that a few leagues from the old woman's hut, on the
other side of the forest, there rose a grand castle, belonging to a
very great baron. And sometimes, on fine summer mornings, as the old
woman and the cat were sitting in the sunshine, by the door, the old
woman at her spinning-wheel, and puss curled up for a nap after her
breakfast, the forest would suddenly ring with the sound of
hunting-horns, shouts and laughter; and a train of gay ladies and
richly dressed gentlemen would sweep by on horseback, with hawk and
hound, and followed by servants in splendid liveries; for the baron was
fond of hawking and hunting, and frequently took those diversions in
the neighboring forests. Now, it so happened, that in one of the tall
trees behind the cottage, there lived a magpie: not by any means an
ordinary magpie, but a bird that had seen a good deal of the world;
indeed, at one time of her life, she had, as she took care to inform
every body, lived in the service of the Countess Von
Rustenfustenmustencrustenberg. How she happened to leave such a grand
situation, the magpie never explained: to be sure, some ill-natured
people _did_ say that there had been an awkward story about the loss of
one of the countess's diamond bracelets, which was found one fine
morning, in the inside of a hollow tree in the garden; and that Mag was
turned away in disgrace directly. But how the matter really was, I
cannot say: all that I know is, that she took up her abode half-way up
one of the large oaks, behind the old woman's hut, a long time before
our story begins; and that, being of a particularly sociable and chatty
disposition, she soon established an ardent friendship with the cat,
and they became the greatest cronies in the world. So when, as I said
just now, the baron's grand hunting parties swept past, they afforded
the magpie a fine opportunity for displaying her knowledge of life and
the world. And sometimes, too, she would dwell at great length on the
splendor and happiness she had enjoyed while she lived with the
countess in her palace, till the cat's fur almost stood on end to hear
the wonders she related.--What a place that palace must have been! very
different, indeed, from the old woman's cottage!

Now, these conversations with the magpie sadly unsettled the mind of
the cat; more particularly when the magpie related to her how daintily
the Countess Von Rustenfustenmustencrustenberg's cat always
lived--what nice bits of chicken she dined upon, what delicious
morsels of buttered crumpet she often had for breakfast, what soft
cushions she lay upon, and a great deal more to the same purpose: all
which made a powerful impression upon our humble friend. So she sate
and reflected by the fire, while the good old woman, her mistress,
went on spinning the wool which she sold afterwards at the nearest
town, to buy food and clothes.

The more the cat talked to the magpie, the more dissatisfied she
became with her present condition; till, at last, I am sadly afraid
that when, in a morning, the old woman gave her her breakfast of
goats' milk with some nice brown bread broken into it, she began
rather to despise it, instead of taking it thankfully, as she ought to
have done, for she was really very comfortably off in the
cottage--having bread and milk every morning and night, and something
for dinner too; besides what mice she could catch, to say nothing of a
stray robin or sparrow now and then. But, as I said just now, the
magpie's chattering stories unsettled her; she thought it would be so
charming to dine upon bits of roast chicken, and have buttered
crumpets for breakfast, and fine cushions to lie upon, like the
countess's cat. All this was very silly, no doubt; but she wanted
experience: she knew nothing of the thousands and thousands of poor
cats who would have thought _her_ life quite luxurious. It is a very
bad thing to get unsettled; it sets people wishing and doing many
foolish things.

One fine bright evening, the magpie was perched upon a projecting
bough of her oak, and the cat, who thought the cottage particularly
dull that day, had come out for a little gossip.

'Good evening!' screamed the magpie, as soon as she saw her; 'do come
up here and let us talk politics a little.' So the cat climbed up, and
seated herself on another bough a little below.

'You look out of spirits to-day;' began the magpie, bending down a
very inquisitive eye to her friend's face; I am afraid you are not
well; but I'm not surprised: that old sparrow I saw you eating for
dinner must have been as tough as leather; it is no wonder you are ill
after it! You should really be more careful, and only catch the nice
tender young ones.'

'Thank you,' replied the cat, in a rather melancholy tone; 'I am
perfectly well.'

'Then what in the world ails you, my dear friend?'

'I don't know,' answered the cat; 'but I believe I am getting rather
tired of staying here all my life.'

'Ah!' exclaimed the magpie, 'I know what that is--I feel for you,
puss! you may well be moped, living in that stupid cottage all day.
You are not like myself, now; _I_ have had such advantages! I declare
to you I can amuse myself the whole day with the recollection of the
wonderful things I have seen when I lived in the great world.'

'There it is!' interrupted the cat; 'to think of the difference in
people's situations! Just compare my condition, in this wretched hole
of a hut, with the life that you say the countess's cat lives. I'm
sure I can hardly eat my sop in the morning for thinking of her
buttered crumpets--dear! dear! it's a fine thing to be born in a
palace!'

'Indeed,' replied the magpie, 'there is a great deal of truth in what
you say; and sometimes I half repent of having retired from her
service myself; but there's a great charm in liberty--it is pleasant
to feel able to fly about wherever one likes, and have no impertinent
questions asked.'

'Does the countess's cat ever do any work?' inquired puss.

'Not a bit,' answered the magpie. 'I don't suppose she ever caught a
mouse in her life; why should she? She has plenty to eat and drink,
and nothing to do but to sleep or play all day long.'

'What a life!' ejaculated the cat; 'and here am I, obliged to take the
trouble to catch birds or anything I can, if I want to make out my
dinner,--what a world it is!'

'Your most obedient servant, ladies!' just at that moment hooted an
old owl from a neighboring fir-tree; 'a fine evening to you!'

'Dear me, Mr. Owl! how you made me jump!' cried the magpie, rather
pettishly; 'I had nearly toppled down from the bough--'

To say the truth, the magpie did not particularly fancy the owl's
company--he was apt to come out with very rude things sometimes;
besides, he was reckoned a very sensible bird, and Mag always declared
she hated sensible birds--they were so dreadfully dull, and thought
themselves so much wiser than other people.

'I beg pardon--I am afraid I have interrupted an interesting
discourse,' began the owl, observing that his salutation had rather
discomposed the magpie.

The cat, however, was not sorry to have the opportunity of imparting
her griefs and perplexities to a bird who was so generally respected
for his wisdom; so she replied:--

'Why, indeed, my dear sir, we were conversing upon the lamentable
differences there are in the world.'

'You may well say that,' answered the owl, giving a blink with his
left eye. 'I suppose, now, ma'am,' he added, rather dryly, turning to
the magpie, 'your ladyship finds a good deal of difference between
your present abode, and the countess's grand palace-garden? I only
wonder how you could bring yourself to make such a change--at your
time of life, especially.'

What an abominable uncivil speech, thought the magpie; she fidgeted
upon the branch, drew herself up, and muttered something between her
beak about the propriety of people attending to their own concerns.

'But _you_, my dear cat,' continued the owl, 'you have every reason, I
should think, to be perfectly satisfied with your lot in life?'

'I am not so sure of that,' said the cat; '_I_ think I have a good
many reasons for being quite the contrary; the countess's cat has
buttered crumpets and cream for breakfast, and sleeps on a beautiful
soft cushion all night, and all day too, if she likes it: and just
look what a dull life of it I lead here! and I have nothing but the
hearth to lie upon, and nothing for breakfast but milk and brown
bread!'

'And you ought to be thankful you can get that!' cried the owl, quite
angrily. 'I tell you what, Mrs. Puss, I have seen more of the world
than you have, and I just say this for your comfort--if you could see
how _some_ poor cats live, you would be glad enough of your present
condition.'

'Humph!' muttered the cat, 'I really don't know how you have contrived
to see so much of the world, sitting as you do in a tree all day,
blinking your eyes as if you couldn't bear a ray of sunshine: now,
with all due submission to your superior wisdom, I should think the
magpie ought to know something of life, after the high society she has
lived in,--and I do say it is a shame that one cat should have
buttered crumpets and cream for breakfast, just because she happens
to live in a palace, while another has only brown sop, because _she_
happens to live in a cottage!'

'But suppose,' replied the owl, 'that some other cat, who lives in a
cellar, and never gets anything to eat, except what she can pick up in
the gutters, should take it into her head to say, "What a shame it is
that some cats should have nice snug cottages over their heads, and
warm hearths to sit by, and bread and milk for breakfast, while I am
obliged to live in this horrid cold cellar, and never know how to get
a mouthful?"'

The cat was rather disconcerted by this observation at first; but
presently answered:

'My dear Mr. Owl, don't let us exaggerate,--you can't seriously mean
to say there are any cats in the world in such a condition as you
speak of? I am sure the magpie, with all her experience of life, would
have told me about it, if it were really so--you must be mistaken.'

The magpie, by this time, had become exceedingly tired of such a long
silence, and was beginning to think that she had stood upon her
dignity quite long enough.

'You will excuse me, my worthy friend,' she said, turning to the owl,
'but really you do sit there so, day after day, blinking in the sun,
without a soul to speak to, that I don't wonder at your taking very
strange fancies into your head. I can only say, that during the whole
of my residence in the palace of the Countess Von
Rustenfustenmustencrustenberg, my late respected mistress, _I_ never
came in contact with any cat in the condition you are pleased to
imagine; and I should know something of the world, I think.'

'Well,' replied the owl, quietly, 'I will not dispute your ladyship's
knowledge of the world, but I strongly advise our friend Mrs. Puss to
remain contented at home, and not try to improve her fortune by going
into the town: people should learn to know when they are well off.'

Just then, patter, patter, patter, came a few large drops through the
leaves; the magpie making a prodigious chattering, and declaring that
a tremendous storm was coming on, flew down from the bough; and,
whispering the cat not to mind what the owl said--'a stupid old
bird!'--she presently hid herself, very snug, in a hollow place in the
trunk: not very sorry, to say the truth, to break up the conversation.
The owl very deliberately nestled himself in a thick bush of ivy that
grew near, and the cat ran into the cottage, to sit by the fire and
reflect; for between her two friends, her mind was a little perplexed.

The old woman shut the cottage door, heaped some dry fir-logs on the
fire, and sate down to her spinning-wheel. The rain pelted against the
shutters, the wind howled in the tree-tops, and roared loudly in the
forest behind the hut; it was a terrible night out of doors, but
within the cottage it was snug enough,--the fire was blazing merrily,
the old woman's wheel turned briskly round, the kettle was singing a
low quiet song to itself beside the crackling logs, and the cat was
sitting on the hearth, looking warm and comfortable. But I am afraid
she was not at all comfortable--in her mind; for discontented people
seldom are. It never entered her head to consider whether there were
any poor cats abroad that night, without a shelter over them; for
grumblers are always selfish, and never think of the wants of others.
In fact, she could think of nothing, just at that time, but the
luxuries enjoyed by the fortunate cats who might happen to be born in
grand palaces; so, curled up in the warmest corner of the hearth, she
sate watching the little spouts of flame that kept flashing up from
the pine logs, and wishing, for the hundredth time that day, that she
had had the good luck to be a palace cat. Presently a very strange
thing happened to her.

All of a sudden she felt something very lightly touch her coat; and
looking round, there stood, close by her, the most beautiful little
thing that anybody ever dreamt of. She was not many inches high; her
robe seemed made of gold and silver threads, fine as gossamer, woven
together: on her head she wore a circlet of diamonds, so small and
bright, that they looked like sparks of fire, and in her tiny hand she
bore a long and very slight silver wand--it was more like a very,
_very_ fine knitting-pin than anything else.

The cat looked at her with unutterable astonishment: it was very odd
that the old woman did not seem to see her at all.

The beautiful little lady looked at the cat for a minute or two very
steadily, and then said, 'You are wishing for something; what is it?'

By this time the cat had sufficiently recovered from her consternation
to be able to speak: so she answered, 'Please your majesty, whoever
you are, you have guessed right for once--I _am_ wishing for
something: I wish to live in the palace of the magpie's grand
countess!'

Wonderful to relate--the words were no sooner spoken, than the Fairy
struck her wand upon the floor three times, and lo! and behold!
instantly there appeared--though how it got there, I can't imagine--a
car made of four large scallop shells joined together, and lined with
rich velvet; the wheels were studded with the whitest pearls, and it
was drawn by eight silver pheasants. The Fairy seated herself inside,
and told the cat to jump in after her. Puss obeyed, and in an instant
the hut, the old woman, the little garden, all had vanished! and she
and the Fairy were sailing through the air as fast as the eight
pheasants could fly.

'Where in the world are we going, please your majesty?' said poor
puss, in a dreadfully frightened tone, clinging to the sides of the
car with her claws, that she might not be tossed out. 'Hush!' said the
Fairy, in a voice so solemn, that the cat did not venture to ask
another question.

On--on--on they flew, till the gloomy forest was left far behind; the
storm had subsided; and, as the moon came out from behind the clouds,
the cat perceived they were passing over a wild moorland country.
On--on, the birds flew, and the wild heath swelled into mountains, and
sank again into plain and valley; and they heard beneath them, like
the distant sea, the rustling of the wind among clumps of pine-trees.
On--on, the birds flew, till, at length there appeared, far before
them, the glimmering lights and dim outlines of a stately city.
On--on, the birds flew, and the city grew nearer and nearer; turrets
and spires and ancient gables rose in the bright moonlight, and the
houses grew thicker and thicker together.

At length the pheasants flew more slowly, and the cat saw that they
were approaching a very magnificent palace. How her heart beat, partly
with fright, partly with the rapid motion, partly with expectation!
Yes, they were evidently drawing near to a magnificent palace. It had
high towers and curiously carved gateways, that threw strange deep
shadows upon the walls, and the panes of the lattices glittered like
diamonds in the moon-beams, and the smoke from the chimneys curled up
into the cat's face, and got down her throat, and made her sneeze
dreadfully--she wondered how the Fairy could bear it. But now, slowly,
slowly, slowly, the wonderful car began to descend, till it was just
on a level with one of the windows, which happened, very conveniently,
to have been left wide open: so in flew the pheasants, car and all,
and alighted on the hearth-rug. 'Jump out--be quick!' cried the Fairy.
The cat did not wait to be told twice--she was out in a twinkling; but
before she could turn her head round, car, Fairy, and pheasants had
vanished, and she was left alone in the strange room. 'To be sure,'
she exclaimed to herself, 'was there ever anything so extraordinary?'
What an adventure! And what a room it was! It was so large, that three
or four huts, like her old mistress's, would have stood in it. The
floor was covered with something so thick, so warm, and so beautiful,
all over flowers in bright colors, that she had never seen anything
like it before: in short, everything in the room was so fine, or so
soft, or so large, or so bright, that the cat could not conceive what
such strange things could be meant for.

However, she soon decided that the hearth-rug was the most delightful
bed she had ever reposed upon; and, stretching out her limbs upon it,
before the huge fire that was burning in the grate, she strove to
collect her bewildered ideas ere she proceeded any further to
investigate these unknown regions. Suddenly the door opened.

'Dear! what a pretty cat!' exclaimed a waiting-maid, entering the
room; 'and just as we were wanting another, too: my lady, the
countess, will be quite pleased.' Then, coming up to the cat, she took
her in her arms, and began stroking her most affectionately. 'Pretty
pussy! how could you ever get into the room? O I see they have left
the window open, so you have wandered in out of the street, poor
little cat! It's really quite lucky, just as the old one is dead.' So
saying, she again stroked the cat, and carried her away with her into
an inner room, where there sat an old lady in an easy chair by the
fire, apparently employed in eating her supper.

'Please your ladyship,' said the waiting-woman, 'here's a poor cat
come into the house to-night, just as we were wanting one--will your
ladyship be pleased to let it remain here?'

'To be sure,' said the old Countess Von Rustenfustenmustencrustenberg
(for it was she); 'it has just come in to supply the place of poor old
Finette: put it into Finette's bed to-night, Ermengarde, and give it a
good meal first, for I dare say it is hungry enough, poor creature!
But, first, bring it here, and let me stroke it.'

You may imagine how puss purred her very loudest as the countess
patted her, and called her a pretty cat. She thought herself now the
luckiest cat in the world: how she wished that spiteful old owl could
but know about it! Ermengarde, the waiting-woman, now took her back
into the room she had first entered, and setting her down on the
hearth-rug, went out. Presently she returned, and placed before the
cat a dish, containing such a supper, as had never entered her
imagination till the magpie enlightened her on these subjects: it was
some minutes before she could believe it; was it _real_? However, she
did it full justice in time; and then, after a great deal more patting
and petting, the maid again took her up, and deposited her by the side
of the fire, in a very pretty basket lined with soft cushions. And
could she go to sleep? Not for some time, in spite of her long ride.
It all seemed so strange--so wonderful! that she, who had been longing
for months to belong to the household of the Countess Von
Rustenfustenmustencrustenberg, should now be actually in her palace!
It was extraordinary indeed. But she fell asleep at last.

The next morning the cat was awake early, and the sun was shining
through the satin curtains of the splendid room, and everything in it
looked so _very_ beautiful! How different from the old woman's hut! So
the cat sate up in the basket, and looked about her. After she had
thus amused herself in this way for some time, Ermengarde opened the
door.

'Well, Pussy,' she said, 'so you are wide awake, and ready, I dare
say, for your breakfast.'

Now for the buttered crumpets! thought the cat. The maid went out, and
quickly returned with a large saucer full of rich milk, with some roll
crumbled into it. No buttered crumpets.

The cat felt a sort of blank feeling of disappointment; it was very
odd: but perhaps she should have some another morning. However, she
made an exceedingly good breakfast, as it was; but it must be
confessed she was a little cross all day. Soon after breakfast, the
old countess came in, followed by a lap-dog--a fat, spoilt,
disagreeable looking animal, and the cat took a dislike to him at
first sight. And as for the dog, he almost growled out aloud when the
countess stooped down to stroke the cat. It was evident that the
hatred was quite mutual.

'Now, Viper,' said the old lady, 'be good! you know you are my own
darling, that you are; but you must not quarrel with poor pussy: no
fighting you know, Viper!'

Whereupon Viper struggled down out of his mistress's arms, for she had
taken him up to bestow a kiss upon him, and giving a short snarl, by
way of showing his perfect contempt for her admonition, he mounted
upon a stool before the fire, and sat eyeing his new acquaintance with
such a fierce pair of eyes, that the poor cat really shook all over,
and wished herself safe out of the palace again. However, whenever the
countess left the room, she always called Viper away too; so they were
not left together at all the first day. On the following, the cat
began to get used to Viper's cross looks, and did not mind him so
much: and the old lady petted and made so much of her, that she
thought no cat had ever been so fortunate before. As to that, we shall
see.

Dinner-time came: and as Viper was to dine with the cat, Ermengarde
brought in _two_ plates this time, and to work they fell with all
their might. Viper had nearly eaten up all his own dinner, and the cat
was saving a beautiful merrythought for her last _tit-bit_, when, as
ill luck would have it, the countess was suddenly called out of the
room.

Instantly, with a growl that sounded in the cat's ears like thunder,
Viper darted full at the merrythought, exclaiming:

'You vile little wretch of a stray cat, do you suppose I shall suffer
you to come in here, and rob me of my bones?'

'Indeed, my lord,' said the cat, dreadfully frightened, 'I did not
mean to take more than my share!'

'And pray, madam,' screamed Viper, 'what do you mean by that? Do you
intend to insinuate that I have taken more than mine? Now, Mrs. Puss,
just listen to me once for all,--if you give me any more of your
impertinence, I'll worry you to death in two minutes!'

Poor puss! she trembled so from head to tail, that she could hardly
stand: but just as she was going to beseech him not to be offended,
the countess came in again; and as she soon afterwards took Viper out
an airing with her, the cat saw no more of him for that afternoon.
Poor puss! she had a great deal of sorrowful reflection all that
evening. The result of it was, that she very seriously asked herself
what she had gained by leaving her mistress's cottage? To be sure, she
had cream for breakfast, and chicken for dinner, but what was that,
if, every mouthful she ate, she was in fear of that savage brute of a
dog snatching away her meal, or even attacking and worrying her?

Fifty times did she wish herself a hundred leagues off. How careful
she resolved to be to do nothing that could possibly offend the dog.
And so, for the next three or four days, by dint of giving up to him
all her best bones, and always jumping down from her cushion whenever
he wanted to lie upon it, and looking the picture of humility whenever
he was in the room, she contrived to get on in tolerable peace with
him. But unluckily, one morning, puss, finding herself all alone in
the drawing-room, and everything quiet, and feeling very sleepy (for
she had had very little repose the night before, from distress of
mind), thought she might as well take the opportunity of getting a
nap; so she jumped upon a high footstool, beside the fire, and was
soon fast asleep. How long she had napped she could not tell, when she
was awakened by a furious barking; and opening her eyes, she saw Viper
standing at a little distance, looking as if he was going into fits
with passion.

Poor puss! she recollected, all in a moment, that she had got upon
Viper's own footstool! She jumped down before you could count one.

'You audacious little upstart!' cried the dog, as soon as his rage
allowed him to speak, 'do you think I shall submit to such impertinent
liberties?'

'Indeed, indeed,' stammered the poor cat, 'I humbly beg your
lordship's pardon, but I really quite forgot----'

'Forgot, indeed!' roared Viper, 'I'll teach you to forget, Mrs. Puss!'
and making a tremendous dash at her, he would doubtless have
demolished her in no time, had not, fortunately, the window been open
a little, just enough for the cat to get through.

She was on the window-seat in an instant, and had scrambled out of the
window before Viper, who was very fat, could come up to her. It was
with some difficulty that he got up upon the window-seat, and quite in
vain that he tried to squeeze his fat body through the opening of the
window. How he growled with disappointed passion, as he stood on his
hind-legs on the window-seat, stretching his head, as far as his
little short neck would allow, through the opening, to see what had
become of puss.

What _had_ become of her? She had dropt down into the street, and had
crept into the shade of one of the heavy broad stone-carvings beneath
the window, knowing that there she was safe enough for the present;
and she lay down, panting with the fright, to recover her breath a
little, and consider what was to be done. To go back to the palace was
clearly out of the question. But then where could she go? Poor cat!
what a perplexity she was in! She lay snug for the best part of an
hour before she durst venture out of her hiding-place. At last,
cautiously peeping about her, she crept out, and ran, with all her
speed, down the street, not knowing in the least whither she was
flying. She had not gone far before she attracted the attention of a
group of children, who were playing in the street. Shouting, whooping,
and laughing, they pursued her. She redoubled her speed, and darting
suddenly down a little side alley, was soon out of sight of her
pursuers. She heard their screams and yellings, growing fainter and
fainter, in the distance; and feeling that the immediate danger had
past, she relaxed her pace, and looked to see where she was. She found
that she was in a little, dirty, miserable court, open at the end,
through which she saw trees and green fields. But she thought it would
be very hazardous to loiter; so she ran on, and in a short time found
that she had left the town behind her, and was once more in the open
country. Dreading lest she might encounter any more dogs, she
carefully avoided approaching any human habitation; so she glided
along among the grass, till she came to a small clump of trees, which
put her in mind of the forest near her old mistress's hut. Seeing no
better prospect of shelter for the night, she climbed up into the
largest of the trees, knowing that, at least, she should be out of the
way of _dogs_ there; and finding a snug place among the branches in
the middle of the tree (for, though it was autumn, yet the leaves were
still pretty thick), she made up her mind to pass the night there.

But it wanted some hours yet of night: and what was she to do for
supper? It was not at all a pleasant consideration. Moreover, her
squabble with Viper had taken place _before_ dinner; and now there was
no prospect of any supper but such as she could earn by her own
exertions. Perhaps she might, with good luck, catch a robin before
night; but that could very ill supply the place of the nice bits of
fowl, and saucers of rich milk, that Ermengarde gave her every night.
However, she was too glad to be safe and snug up in the tree, to be
very particular. So she made up her mind to lie there till it grew
towards roosting-time, and then see what she could find for supper.
She peeped out as well as she could between the branches to see what
the surrounding country was like; it all looked quite wild and
lonely, and she saw but few dwellings anywhere near the clump of
trees.

Her place of refuge seemed at a considerable distance from the
high-road; so she hoped she was tolerably safe from both men and dogs.

At length the cold dews of the evening began to fall, and the little
birds began to return home to their trees: so the cat ventured to
descend and look about for her supper. I am sorry to say, that being
by this time exceedingly hungry, she obeyed the dictates of nature,
and in a very few minutes had attacked and devoured a dear little
robin, that might have sung merrily all through the autumn, if puss
had only been _contented_, and staid quietly at home in the cottage.
Be that as it may, poor little Redbreast fell a victim to her hunger,
and yet she considered him but a very poor supper, after all. He was
the best she could get that night, however; for the other birds proved
too nimble for her: so, weary and hungry, puss climbed up her tree
again, and was soon asleep--for she was very tired indeed, with all
she had done that day. The next morning, when she awoke, her limbs
felt quite stiff; for the night had been frosty, and she was very
cold. But there was no fire in the tree; so she had nothing for it but
to crawl down, and try to warm herself with catching a bird for her
breakfast. She was so benumbed, that she could hardly get down, and
her bones ached as if she had got the rheumatism all over her:
however, jumping about after the birds revived her by degrees, and she
began to feel in a little better spirits; till, spying, at a distance
on the high-road, a carriage with a large dog running after it, all
her panic returned, and she climbed up into her tree again with all
expedition. But the carriage rolled along, and took no notice of puss;
and the rumbling of the wheels soon died away, and all was quiet
again.

What a melancholy long day it seemed! and, moreover, she could hardly
catch a bird--they all seemed to fly away from the trees, instead of
settling upon them; and puss had really hard work to get any dinner at
all that day. And then the night was _so_ cold again. Many a time when
she awoke, and felt the frosty wind whistling round the trees,
stripping away more and more of the leaves at every gust, did the poor
cat, in her cold and hunger, think of the nice bright fire on her old
mistress's hearth, and her brown bread and milk, till she was ready to
cry her eyes out with vexation at her own folly--and what was still
worse, her own ingratitude--in being willing to leave the good old
woman, her best friend, who had taken care of her all her life long,
merely because she fancied it would be very grand to live in a palace.
People sometimes find out their mistakes when it is too late.

But, to make a long story short--three or four more days and
nights--melancholy days, and cold wretched nights--passed over in much
the same miserable way, or, rather, things grew worse: for the
weather became stormy, the trees were almost stripped of their
leaves, so that they scarcely afforded her any shelter from the wind,
and the cat was so dreadfully cold!

It became still more difficult, too, to procure any food; and the
birds became very shy of venturing within her reach: the poor cat did
not know what to do--she was really half dead with cold and hunger!

'Oh!' groaned she, stretching herself out upon some of the fallen
leaves at the foot of the tree--'Oh, that I had never listened to that
deceitful, mischievous magpie!'

And, indeed, she had good cause to say so.

It was drawing towards sunset; there had been several storms during
the day, but, as the evening came on, the weather had a little cleared
up; and a gleam of sunshine just then shot out from among the black
clouds, and fell upon something glittering beside her.

She lifted her eyes languidly, for she had no strength to be alert
now, and saw the bright and beautiful Fairy, with her car drawn by
the silver pheasants.

'Have you learnt yet to be contented with plain fare at home?' said
the Fairy to the cat, with an expression in her countenance that the
cat could hardly make out: she did not know whether her strange
visitor meant to be kind or not to her.

'Oh! if you would but take me back to my old mistress again!' cried
the poor cat, clasping her paws in an agony of entreaty, 'I would
never be discontented any more!'

The Fairy smiled, and touching her lightly with her silver wand, bade
her close her eyes--another moment, and she bade her open them; and,
most wonderful of all the wonderful things that had happened to her,
the trees, the country, the distant city, all were gone! There was a
charming log-fire on the hearth, sparkling and crackling; whirr,
whirr, whirr, went the old woman's wheel, and there she sate in her
chair just as usual; and the wind was blowing, and the rain was
pelting against the shutters, exactly as it did the very night puss
had left the cottage in such a mysterious way. In fact, everything
looked _precisely_ the same. The cat rubbed her eyes, but nothing
could she see of the Fairy, or the car, or the silver pheasants.

However, had she got back, and so quick too? And the old woman did not
seem at all surprised to see her--it was very odd. She could not make
it out anyhow: at last it struck her that, perhaps, she might have
been dreaming, and never have been out of the hut at all. Yet those
terrible growls of Viper's, and those dismal days and nights in the
trees--no, they _must_ have been real! Still, it was very strange that
the old woman should take no more notice of her, if she had been
lost--how could it be? It was really unaccountable.

But her perplexities were interrupted by the cheerful voice of her old
mistress calling out, 'Come, my pussy! it is supper-time!' and as she
spoke, she rose up from her spinning-wheel, and taking down some eggs
and a cake of brown bread, with a large jug, from her corner cupboard,
she broke the eggs into the frying-pan, and they were soon hissing and
sputtering over the fire. Then she placed a large saucer on the table,
and broke some bread into it; and returning to the fire, she took off
the frying-pan, and emptied the eggs into a dish on the table, and sat
down to her supper. But before she tasted a bit herself, she poured
some nice goat's milk over the bread in a saucer, and set it down on
the hearth before the cat.

Now I will venture to say, puss never ate a meal in her life half so
thankfully before. She made a resolution, between every mouthful,
never to say one word to that silly chattering magpie again; and never
to indulge in any more foolish wishes, but to stay at home, do her
duty in catching her mistress's mice, and be contented, and thankful
for the brown bread and milk, without troubling her head about
countesses and buttered crumpets any more.

And I am happy to be able to tell you that she faithfully kept her
resolution. She never spoke to the magpie afterwards; but contracted a
steady friendship with the owl, which lasted to the day of his death;
and when he did die, which was not till he had attained a venerable
old age, he bequeathed to her his share of the mice that infested the
neighborhood of the cottage.

As to the magpie, finding that her company was no longer desired in
that part of the world, she very wisely took her flight far away to
the other side of the wood.

Whether she still lives there, and goes on chattering about the grand
things she used to see in the palace of the Countess Von
Rustenfustenmustencrustenberg, is more than I can inform you. If you
want to ascertain that fact, you must go to the northern part of the
Duchy of Kittencorkenstringen, and then you must walk seventeen
leagues and three quarters still further north, and then you must turn
off to your right, just where you see the old fir-stump with the
rook's nest in it; and then you must walk eleven leagues and a
quarter more, and then turn to your left, and after you have kept
straight on for about fifteen leagues more, you will see the wood
where the magpie lives;--and then, if you walk quite through it to the
other side, you will see the old woman's cottage; and if it should
happen to be a fine day, I dare say you will see her sitting in the
sunshine spinning, and, curled round beside her, the contented cat.

[Illustration]



THE WISHING-DAY.


Long, long ago, in the glorious reign of King Huggermuggerus, there
lived in an ancient castle a highly respectable cat and his wife. They
led a very comfortable life of it, for the castle belonged to an old
baron who kept very little company, and was very fond of his cats: so
it was very rarely that any strange dogs were admitted within the
walls; and the cats breakfasted every morning with their master. They
had only two children; all the rest of their numerous family having
been barbarously drowned by the housekeeper, who was a very cross old
woman, and did not like cats, nor anything else very much. But the
cats did not trouble their heads much about her; in fact, they had
very little to do with her, for they were allowed full liberty to
wander about the castle at their pleasure.

It was a delightful old castle, full of such queer odd nooks and
corners, that one might have been lost in it for days together; and
there were long corridors, in which the kittens used to run races on
moonlight nights, when the old housekeeper was safe in bed, and make
such a racket, it would have done your heart good to hear them. But
they chiefly took possession of a charming old room, hung with
tapestry representing all sorts of strange things, and very convenient
for the two kittens to play at hide-and-seek behind it; and as the
room faced the south, they got all the sun to warm them. The elder of
them was called _Wishie_, the younger _Contenta_. Their papa and mamma
had given them these names, because Wishie was always saying she
wished she had this, and she wished she had that, and never seemed
satisfied unless she had everything she mewed for: while Contenta, on
the contrary, was of the sweetest disposition in the world, and always
pleased with what was given to her. One would have thought that
neither of them could have had anything to wish for; for they had
plenty to eat and drink--nice long galleries to run about in--no dogs
or children to tease them--and a garden with many tall trees, and
abundance of sparrows. What could they want besides?

One bright summer-day, the sun was shining splendidly--the flowers
were in full bloom--the air was laden with sweet scents from the
honey-suckles and moss-roses, and the larks were singing away high up
in the sky, as merry as if they had all gone out for a holiday, when
Wishie took it into her head to have a stroll in the garden. Now, it
so happened that Contenta, who had been keeping the baron company at
his breakfast, had carried off into the garden a very nice
chicken-bone which her master had given her. So she sat down under a
rose-tree to eat it. But she did not remain there long before Wishie
spied her out. 'Well, to be sure!' exclaimed she to her herself, as
she drew near the rose-bush, 'What a bone Contenta has got there! She
has been breakfasting with our master, that's very clear. I'm sure
nobody ever gives _me_ such great bones! I wish Contenta would let me
have a bit of it--;' and so saying, she threw herself down beside her
sister, pretending to look very tired and hungry, and whined out, 'Do,
Contenta, give me a bit! I am so hungry!'

'Willingly,' replied Contenta, who was very good-natured; 'but have
you had no breakfast, Wishie, this morning?'

'O, nothing to speak of,' said Wishie, falling tooth and claw upon the
bone; and in a very few minutes she had devoured by far the largest
share of it. Now, I don't mean to say that Contenta was such an
unnaturally amiable cat, as to be exactly well pleased to see her
breakfast disappear in such a wholesale fashion; but she consoled
herself with reflecting, that dinner would come some time or other;
and being, as I said, very good-natured, she made Wishie very welcome
to the bone, and began frisking after the leaves upon the
gravel-walk. I am sorry to say, that when Wishie had devoured the
chicken-bone, she did not seem half so much ashamed of her selfish
conduct as she ought to have been; but, seeing a fine plump little
sparrow perch himself upon the branch of an old tree near, she sprung
up the stem after him. Now it was really very greedy of her, but
however she _did_ it, and some wonderful things happened in
consequence. The tree was very old, and the trunk was quite hollow;
but that Wishie did not know; so when she had clambered up to the top
she suddenly found herself on the brink of a frightful abyss--there
seemed a hollow deep down to the very roots of the tree. She peeped
cautiously down to see what she could see, but somehow or other,
whether she overbalanced herself, or whether a bit of the bark gave
way, or how it was I can't tell, but Wishie tipped over, and tumbled
headlong into the hollow of the tree. But as she luckily fell into a
bed of thick moss she was not the worse; and giving herself a shake,
she opened her eyes and looked about her.

Was there ever anything so wonderful? She was in an enormous hall,
supported upon at least two hundred columns of gold, while, between
them, curtains of the richest white silk, fringed with pearls and
diamonds, hung from the roof to the floor, which was spread with a
carpet of azure, covered with flowers in their natural colors,
intermingled with stars of gold and silver. The roof of this wondrous
hall was of fretted gold, and from the centre hung a lamp formed of an
enormous precious stone, which shed forth rays of many-colored hues.
At the upper end of the apartment was a chair of state, over which
fell a drapery of azure velvet, embroidered with pearls in beautiful
devices. But how shall I describe to you the lady who sat in this
gorgeous chair? She was bright and beautiful as a summer's day; her
hair, shining like gold, fell in curls to the very ground; she was
dressed in a robe of azure-blue, a crown of white roses, sprinkled
with diamond dew-drops, rested upon her brow, and in her hand she
carried a long slender bright wand of gold. You may imagine that
Wishie was very much astounded at the sight of all these strange
things; however, the Fairy, in a very soft voice, called to her to
approach nearer. 'Wishie,' said she, 'do you know where you are?'

'Not the least bit in the world, please your ladyship,' replied
Wishie; 'how should I? Who would ever have thought there was such a
grand place as this under ground?'

'Never mind its being under ground, Wishie,' said the Fairy, 'that's
no concern of your's; attend to what I am going to say to you. You are
very fond of _wishing_, are you not?' Wishie made no answer, for she
felt rather ashamed; and the Fairy continued: 'I advise you, Wishie,
as your friend, to give up such a bad trick, you will find it very
inconvenient some day or other.'

By this time Wishie's fright was a little gone off; and being always
rather pertly inclined, she plucked up courage, and remarked that she
did not see how it was to hurt her. Now it was very rude in a little
good-for-nothing kitten like Wishie, to speak so saucily; and the
Fairy looked very angry, as well she might; however, she only said,
'You will know better, perhaps, at some other time. Hear me, Wishie, I
am going to bestow a wonderful gift upon you; for this day you shall
have everything you wish for. But I warn you, that should any of your
wishes bring you into trouble, you must abide by the consequences, you
cannot undo it.' As the Fairy said this, she lightly touched Wishie
with the end of her wand, and the kitten instantly found herself again
in the castle, in the old room hung with tapestry, and her mother
purring by the fire-side. Wishie was too full of her adventure to keep
it another minute to herself; so, running up to her mother, she
related it at great length.

'Nonsense, child,' said the old cat, 'you don't think I shall believe
such absurd stuff, do you?' I'll box your ears for telling stories--'
and she gave Wishie such a hearty cuff with her paw, that she sent her
spinning into the great gallery, to amuse herself as she best could.

How dreadfully cross my old mother is to-day; thought Wishie to
herself, as she scampered up the corridor; however, I must try and
find something to do here--it's very dull being all by oneself. Just
then, as she drew near one of the windows, she heard a great buzzing
and fluttering, and looking up, saw a large wasp dancing about in the
sunshine. Wishie thought it would be very good fun to try and catch
him, so she made several springs at the window, but all in vain; the
wasp was as young and active as she was, and eluded her very nimbly.
Quite out of breath, she paused for a minute to look at him.

'O how I wish I could catch you, master wasp!' she exclaimed, giving a
final jump with all her might.

Strange to say, this time the wasp seemed almost to drop into her
claws; she clutched him with such a tight grasp, that he had no
possibility of escape; but in an instant, with a direful scream,
Wishie unclosed her paw; and the wasp dropped on the floor. Wishie's
paw was terribly stung. Her first trial of the Fairy's gift had not
proved pleasant by any means. So, limping and mewing, Wishie went back
to her mother, who scolded her well for her folly in jumping at the
wasp, when she ought to have been minding her duty and catching the
mice; and after licking the wounded paw, the old cat sent her to bed
for the rest of the day. But Wishie had no intention whatever of
spending her day in such a manner as that. Lie in bed, indeed! not
she. So she licked her paw till the pain was somewhat abated, and then
she crawled slily upstairs into the great gallery. There was nobody
there, except the knights and ladies in the picture-frames, the
baron's ancestors, and a grim looking set they were; and as none of
them showed any desire to come down from the walls to play with her,
Wishie very soon got tired of looking at them. So, seeing a door open
at the end of the corridor, she stole quietly in, and found herself in
one of the state apartments of the castle. It was a grand room, hung
with beautiful tapestry, and full of a great many curious things, the
use of which Wishie could not imagine. Among other things, there was a
magnificent cabinet, and, on one of the shelves, a pretty round ball
of carved ivory, that looked just as if it was made on purpose to roll
along upon the floor, and be run after. And such a large room, too, it
was; the ball would roll about so splendidly.

'Oh!' exclaimed Wishie, 'you pretty ball, I do wish I had you to play
with!'

Bounce came the ball upon the floor, and in another moment, it had
rolled quite to the other end of the room, with Wishie after it, but
it would not suffer her to touch it; just as she came up to it, up it
jumped, dashed high up in the air, over the chairs and tables, and
then descending again on the floor, was here and there and everywhere,
all in a minute; Wishie scampering after it, and absolutely screaming
with delight. Up flew the ball--up to the very ceiling; then down it
came with a rattle against some fine old china on the top of the
cabinet, and in an instant, bowls, jars, and tea-pots, were all lying
on the floor, broken to pieces. Dear me! thought Wishie, this is
rather too much of a good thing; if the old housekeeper should come
in!

But the mad ball never stopped to think about the housekeeper; now it
took a long roll upon the floor, as if to entice Wishie to run after
it; then, suddenly darting up, would hurl itself with all its might,
against one of the grim old pictures; Wishie, who had by this time
quite forgotten the pain of her paw, jumping as high as ever she could
reach after it. It really was something like a game at play! Just
then, bounce it went against a superb mirror at the upper end of the
room, shivering it to atoms; but not a whit did the ball care for
that--with a tremendous spring, it cleared the whole length of the
room, and alighted on one of the picture-frames near the door.

But Wishie was getting much too frightened now to enjoy the fun any
longer: she stood, gazing with rueful looks at the broken mirror--O if
the cross old housekeeper should find it out! She thought the best
plan would be to steal out of the room, but on turning round, she
perceived that the door had become most unaccountably shut--there was
no getting out. What was to be done? While she was turning it over in
her mind, down came the ball directly upon Wishie's tail, with such a
thump! Wishie thought her poor tail must be utterly demolished--she
heard an odd sort of chuckling laugh up in the air, and, looking up,
saw that the ball had seated itself, very quietly, in its old place on
the top of the cabinet. How her tail smarted! it was worse a great
deal than the sting. She was just trying to curl it round to lick it,
when the door opened, and in came the housekeeper! She had not
advanced many steps when the broken china caught her eye; her back was
towards the mirror, so she did not see _that_--but she _did_ see
Wishie, and exclaiming, 'You naughty little kitten, you have been
throwing down the china!' She flew towards Wishie, and if she could
have caught her, would, no doubt, have given her a dreadful whipping;
but, as she had luckily left the door open, Wishie contrived to slip
past her, and dart out of the room. When the housekeeper turned round,
she spied the broken mirror; which put her into such a consternation,
that, for a few minutes, she was really too much thunderstruck to run
after Wishie. And there sate the ball on the cabinet, very quietly,
and nobody ever suspected it.

It was lucky for Wishie that she gained a few minutes on the
housekeeper, for by that means, making the best use of her time, she
flew along the gallery, down the staircase, and jumping out of an
open window, was safely hidden among the shrubs in the garden, before
her enemy had descended the stairs. Poor Wishie! the pain in her tail
was terrible; and she dared not go to her mother, to tell her
misfortunes, for she knew that if she did, her mother would be sure to
cuff her soundly. So she lay still under the bushes, licking her tail,
and trying to forget her troubles as well as she could. Evening came
on; the sun was low in the heavens, and the little birds, that had set
out in the morning full of glee, came back merrily to their nests, and
made themselves comfortable for the night: it was clear they had had a
very happy day of it, though very likely not all they wished for.
Wishie sighed as she listened to their cheerful chirpings. By and bye
she began to feel very hungry, and she thought if she could find
Contenta, she could beg a bit of her supper, for, of course, nobody
else would give her any. So she crawled out of the bushes, and stole
into the court-yard. No one was about; all was quite still: she crept
along under the house till she reached the place where the cats'
supper was always put out for them on the top of a flat stone. Her
papa and mamma, and Contenta, had certainly finished their supper, but
they had remembered Wishie, and very good-naturedly left her some in
the dish; so that she really made a very good supper, better than she
deserved a great deal. Having accomplished this important point, she
thought, as all seemed so quiet, she might venture into the house.

The great door, which opened into the court-yard, had been left ajar,
so she crept in, and peeped into the hall. No one was there; it was
getting dusk: the old knights and ladies who hung against the walls of
the great hall, looked down upon her so gloomily, that she began to
wonder whether they meant to jump upon the floor and give her a
beating. However, they staid quietly in their black frames, and Wishie
crept on, and on, shaking all over for fear she should meet anybody,
till seeing the door of the baron's dining-hall wide open, she
ventured in. The room was empty; the baron's dinner had been over
hours ago; there seemed no fear of any one coming, so she grew bolder
and jumped upon one of the window-seats to consider what she should do
with herself all night. But before she had settled that point, she
began to grow rather thirsty, and (quite forgetting that she had
already had a very good supper, and that Contenta had left her her
full share of the milk that was put out for them every night), being
naturally of a very greedy disposition, she thought how nice a great
dish full of cream would be.

Now it so happened, that close by the window-seat on which she had
stationed herself, there stood on the floor a huge old china
punch-bowl, which was never used except on very great occasions, such
as a marriage in the baron's family, and the like. Many a long year it
was since that bowl had ever been used! there it stood, half-covered
with cobwebs; but the housekeeper came and dusted it sometimes. Well;
Wishie's eye just then fell on the great bowl.

'What a quantity of cream it would hold!' she exclaimed; 'how nice it
would be to have it to lap whenever I liked! I do wish it was full of
nice thick cream, like that the baron has for breakfast!'

Wishie had hardly said it, when something began bubbling up, very
gently, as if it was very soft, from the bottom of the bowl, and in a
few minutes there floated at her feet, a perfect white sea! an ocean
of cream--smooth, delicious, and tempting. It was so conveniently
close to the window-sill, too, that by planting her fore-paws on the
rim of the bowl, she could stoop down and lap so comfortably! At least
she thought so at first; but somehow, when she came to try, the china
was so thin and so slippery, that she found she could get very little
hold. It was very provoking. But she tried a second time; really, it
was _dreadfully_ slippery, and there was nothing that she could stick
her claws into--however, she did at last contrive to get her tongue
just to the top of the cream; but she had scarcely tasted it, when
suddenly her paws shot apart, and she tumbled headlong into the bowl!
The bowl was deep and wide, and there was nothing for her to cling to,
to help herself out by. O, what a splashing and spluttering she made!
but it did her no good; the cream got into her eyes, her mouth, her
nostrils, and she could not anyhow lift herself out of it--there she
must stay, coughing, choking, and struggling, till she was drowned.
Wishie thought she had quite enough cream! But just as she was sinking
down, quite exhausted with her useless efforts, she felt her neck
seized, and that some one was drawing her out of the bowl. The next
minute she was laid safe and sound on the floor. It was some little
time before she could open her eyes, and when she did so, she was
exceedingly astonished to see, by the waning light, the beautiful lady
with the golden locks and crown of white roses, and glittering
dew-drops.

'Well, Wishie,' said the Fairy, 'have you had a pleasant day of it?
You have had everything you wished for, I think?'

'O dear, ma'am!' replied Wishie, shaking her ears to get the cream
out, 'I never had such a miserable day in my life! I have met with
such dreadful misfortunes!'

'Then,' said the Fairy, 'you think that your day would have been a
happier one, if you had _not_ had everything you fancied you should
like?'

Wishie hung her head down, and looked very silly; and at last answered
that 'she thought it would.'

'I am quite of that opinion,' replied the Fairy; 'and, as you seem by
this time to have had pretty plain proofs of the folly of _wishing_, I
will take away my dangerous gift from you; for I hope you will be
wiser now than you have ever been before.' So saying, the Fairy gave
her a stroke with her wand, and Wishie directly found herself in her
own little bed, by the side of her sister Contenta, who was sound
asleep. And in a minute Wishie fell asleep too, and never awoke till
the sun was shining in at the windows. She told all her strange
adventures to her father and mother and Contenta; upon which they all
held up their paws, and declared they had never heard anything so
wonderful. But her father and mother scolded her also, and told her it
was all her own fault, which Wishie felt was too true; and, from that
day forwards, she never mewed for anything, but became as satisfied
and good-humored as Contenta herself; and even the housekeeper at last
grew quite fond of her.


FINIS.

[Illustration]


       *       *       *       *       *

    +-----------------------------------------------------------+
    | Typographical errors corrected in text:                   |
    |                                                           |
    | Page  63: fidgetted replaced with fidgeted                |
    |                                                           |
    | Unusual words retained:                                   |
    |                                                           |
    | Page 103: slily is a variant of slyly                     |
    |                                                           |
    | Unusual phrasing retained:                                |
    |                                                           |
    | Page  67: "whispering the cat not to mind what..."        |
    |                                                           |
    +-----------------------------------------------------------+

       *       *       *       *       *





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales From Catland, for Little Kittens" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home