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But after that he came again many times and at last I
consented to marry him, but the question was how was I to escape from my
tower. The fairies always supplied me with flax for my spinning, and by
great diligence I made enough cord for a ladder that would reach to
the foot of the tower; but, alas! just as my prince was helping me to
descend it, the crossest and ugliest of the old fairies flew in. Before
he had time to defend himself my unhappy lover was swallowed up by the
dragon. As for me, the fairies, furious at having their plans defeated,
for they intended me to marry the king of the dwarfs, and I utterly
refused, changed me into a white cat. When they brought me here I found
all the lords and ladies of my father's court awaiting me under the same
enchantment, while the people of lesser rank had been made invisible,
all but their hands.
"As they laid me under the enchantment the fairies told me all my
history, for until then I had quite believed that I was their child, and
warned me that my only chance of regaining my natural form was to win
the love of a prince who resembled in every way my unfortunate lover.
"And you have won it, lovely Princess," interrupted the Prince.
"You are indeed wonderfully like him," resumed the Princess--"in voice,
in features, and everything; and if you really love me all my troubles
will be at an end."
"And mine too," cried the Prince, throwing himself at her feet, "if you
will consent to marry me."
"I love you already better than anyone in the world," she said; "but
now it is time to go back to your father, and we shall hear what he says
So the Prince gave her his hand and led her out, and they mounted the
chariot together; it was even more splendid than before, and so was the
whole company. Even the horses' shoes were of rubies with diamond nails,
and I suppose that is the first time such a thing was ever seen.
As the Princess was as kind and clever as she was beautiful, you may
imagine what a delightful journey the Prince found it, for everything
the Princess said seemed to him quite charming.
When they came near the castle where the brothers were to meet, the
Princess got into a chair carried by four of the guards; it was hewn out
of one splendid crystal, and had silken curtains, which she drew round
her that she might not be seen.
The Prince saw his brothers walking upon the terrace, each with a lovely
princess, and they came to meet him, asking if he had also found a wife.
He said that he had found something much rarer--a white cat! At which
they laughed very much, and asked him if he was afraid of being eaten up
by mice in the palace. And then they set out together for the town. Each
prince and princess rode in a splendid carriage; the horses were decked
with plumes of feathers, and glittered with gold. After them came the
youngest prince, and last of all the crystal chair, at which everybody
looked with admiration and curiosity. When the courtiers saw them coming
they hastened to tell the King.
"Are the ladies beautiful?" he asked anxiously.
And when they answered that nobody had ever before seen such lovely
princesses he seemed quite annoyed.
However, he received them graciously, but found it impossible to choose
Then turning to his youngest son he said:
"Have you come back alone, after all?"
"Your Majesty," replied the Prince, "will find in that crystal chair a
little white cat, which has such soft paws, and mews so prettily, that I
am sure you will be charmed with it."
The King smiled, and went to draw back the curtains himself, but at a
touch from the Princess the crystal shivered into a thousand splinters,
and there she stood in all her beauty; her fair hair floated over her
shoulders and was crowned with flowers, and her softly falling robe was
of the purest white. She saluted the King gracefully, while a murmur of
admiration rose from all around.
"Sire," she said, "I am not come to deprive you of the throne you fill
so worthily. I have already six kingdoms, permit me to bestow one upon
you, and upon each of your sons. I ask nothing but your friendship, and
your consent to my marriage with your youngest son; we shall still have
three kingdoms left for ourselves."
The King and all the courtiers could not conceal their joy and
astonishment, and the marriage of the three Princes was celebrated at
once. The festivities lasted several months, and then each king and
queen departed to their own kingdom and lived happily ever after.(1)