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Start of Story
And so the
days passed, in every kind of amusement, until the year was nearly gone.
The Prince had forgotten all about meeting his brothers: he did not even
know what country he belonged to; but the White Cat knew when he ought
to go back, and one day she said to him:
"Do you know that you have only three days left to look for the little
dog for your father, and your brothers have found lovely ones?"
Then the Prince suddenly recovered his memory, and cried:
"What can have made me forget such an important thing? My whole fortune
depends upon it; and even if I could in such a short time find a dog
pretty enough to gain me a kingdom, where should I find a horse who
would carry me all that way in three days?" And he began to be very
vexed. But the White Cat said to him: "King's son, do not trouble
yourself; I am your friend, and will make everything easy for you. You
can still stay here for a day, as the good wooden horse can take you to
your country in twelve hours."
"I thank you, beautiful Cat," said the Prince; "but what good will it do
me to get back if I have not a dog to take to my father?"
"See here," answered the White Cat, holding up an acorn; "there is a
prettier one in this than in the Dogstar!"
"Oh! White Cat dear," said the Prince, "how unkind you are to laugh at
"Only listen," she said, holding the acorn to his ear.
And inside it he distinctly heard a tiny voice say: "Bow-wow!"
The Prince was delighted, for a dog that can be shut up in an acorn must
be very small indeed. He wanted to take it out and look at it, but the
White Cat said it would be better not to open the acorn till he was
before the King, in case the tiny dog should be cold on the journey. He
thanked her a thousand times, and said good-by quite sadly when the time
came for him to set out.
"The days have passed so quickly with you," he said, "I only wish I
could take you with me now."
But the White Cat shook her head and sighed deeply in answer.
After all the Prince was the first to arrive at the castle where he had
agreed to meet his brothers, but they came soon after, and stared in
amazement when they saw the wooden horse in the courtyard jumping like a
The Prince met them joyfully, and they began to tell him all their
adventures; but he managed to hide from them what he had been doing, and
even led them to think that a turnspit dog which he had with him was the
one he was bringing for the King. Fond as they all were of one another,
the two eldest could not help being glad to think that their dogs
certainly had a better chance. The next morning they started in the same
chariot. The elder brothers carried in baskets two such tiny, fragile
dogs that they hardly dared to touch them. As for the turnspit, he ran
after the chariot, and got so covered with mud that one could hardly see
what he was like at all. When they reached the palace everyone crowded
round to welcome them as they went into the King's great hall; and when
the two brothers presented their little dogs nobody could decide which
was the prettier.
They were already arranging between themselves to
share the kingdom equally, when the youngest stepped forward, drawing
from his pocket the acorn the White Cat had given him. He opened it
quickly, and there upon a white cushion they saw a dog so small that it
could easily have been put through a ring. The Prince laid it upon the
ground, and it got up at once and began to dance. The King did not know
what to say, for it was impossible that anything could be prettier than
this little creature. Nevertheless, as he was in no hurry to part with
his crown, he told his sons that, as they had been so successful the
first time, he would ask them to go once again, and seek by land and sea
for a piece of muslin so fine that it could be drawn through the eye of
a needle. The brothers were not very willing to set out again, but
the two eldest consented because it gave them another chance, and they
started as before. The youngest again mounted the wooden horse, and rode
back at full speed to his beloved White Cat. Every door of the castle
stood wide open, and every window and turret was illuminated, so it
looked more wonderful than before. The hands hastened to meet him, and
led the wooden horse off to the stable, while he hurried in to find the
White Cat. She was asleep in a little basket on a white satin cushion,
but she very soon started up when she heard the Prince, and was
overjoyed at seeing him once more.
"How could I hope that you would come back to me King's son?" she said.
And then he stroked and petted her, and told her of his successful
journey, and how he had come back to ask her help, as he believed that
it was impossible to find what the King demanded. The White Cat looked
serious, and said she must think what was to be done, but that, luckily,
there were some cats in the castle who could spin very well, and if
anybody could manage it they could, and she would set them the task
And then the hands appeared carrying torches, and conducted the Prince
and the White Cat to a long gallery which overlooked the river, from
the windows of which they saw a magnificent display of fireworks of all
sorts; after which they had supper, which the Prince liked even better
than the fireworks, for it was very late, and he was hungry after his
long ride. And so the days passed quickly as before; it was impossible
to feel dull with the White Cat, and she had quite a talent for
inventing new amusements--indeed, she was cleverer than a cat has any
right to be. But when the Prince asked her how it was that she was so
wise, she only said:
"King's son, do not ask me; guess what you please. I may not tell you
The Prince was so happy that he did not trouble himself at all about the
time, but presently the White Cat told him that the year was gone, and
that he need not be at all anxious about the piece of muslin, as they
had made it very well.
"This time," she added, "I can give you a suitable escort"; and on
looking out into the courtyard the Prince saw a superb chariot of
burnished gold, enameled in flame color with a thousand different
devices. It was drawn by twelve snow-white horses, harnessed four
abreast; their trappings were flame-colored velvet, embroidered with
diamonds. A hundred chariots followed, each drawn by eight horses,
and filled with officers in splendid uniforms, and a thousand guards
surrounded the procession. "Go!" said the White Cat, "and when you
appear before the King in such state he surely will not refuse you the
crown which you deserve. Take this walnut, but do not open it until you
are before him, then you will find in it the piece of stuff you asked me