Twas the Night Before Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…
A certain miller had three sons, and when he died the only worldly goods that he had left to them were his mill, his donkey, and his cat.
This little legacy was very quickly divided up. The eldest son took the mill, and the second son took the donkey. All that remained for the youngest son was the cat, and he was very disappointed to receive such a miserable portion.
“My brother,” he said, “will be able to get a decent living by joining forces, but for my part, as soon as I have eaten my cat and made a fur cap out of his skin, I am bound to die of hunger.”
These remarks were overheard by Puss, who pretended not to have been listening, and who said very soberly and seriously, “There is not the least need for you to worry, Master All you have to do is to give me a pouch and get a pair of boots made for me so that I can walk in the woods. You will find then that your share is not so bad after all.”
Now this cat had often shown himself capable of performing clever tricks. When catching rats and mice, for example, he would hide himself nearby their food and hang downward by the feet as though he were dead.
His master, therefore—felt some hope of being assisted in his miserable plight.
When his master gave Puss the pair of boots that he had asked for, Puss gaily pulled them on.
Then Puss hung the pouch around his neck and, holding the cords that tied it in front of him with his paws, he went into a warren where a great number of rabbits lived.
Placing some bran and lettuce in the pouch, he stretched himself out and lay as if he were dead. His plan was to wait until some young rabbit, unlearned in worldly wisdom, should come and rummage in the pouch for the food that Puss had placed there.
Hardly had he laid himself down when thing began to happen as he wished. A stupid rabbit went into the pouch, and Puss, pulling the cords tight, caught him in an instant.
Well satisfied with his capture, Puss departed to the king’s palace. There he demanded an audience and was ushered upstairs. He entered the royal apartment and bowed deep before the king.
“I bring you, Sire,” he said, “a rabbit from the warren of the marquis of Carabas” (such was the title he invented for his master), “which he asked me to present to you on is behalf.”
“Tel your master,” replied the king, “that I thank him and am pleased by his attention.”
Another time, the cat hid himself in a wheat field, with the mouth of his bag wide open.. Two partridges ventured in and, by pulling the cords tight, he captured both of them. Off he went and presented the to the king, just as he had done with the rabbit from the warren. His Majesty was even more pleased by the pair of partridges and handed the cat a present for himself.
For two and three months, Puss went on in this same way, every now and again presenting to the king, as a gift from his master, some new type of game that he had caught.
There soon came a day when Puss learned that the king intended to take his young daughter, who was the most beautiful princess in the world, for a carriage ride along the riverbank.
“If you will do as I tell you,” said Puss to his master, “your fortune will be made. You have only to go and bate in the river at the spot that I will point out to you. Leave the rest to me.”
The marquis of Carabas had no idea what the cat was planning, but he did just as Puss directed.
While the marquis was bathing, the king drew near, and Puss at once began to cry out at the top of his voice, “Help! Help! The marquis of Carabas is drowning!”
When he heard these shouts, the king stuck his head out of the carriage window. He recognized the cat who had so often brought him gifts and he asked his guards to go immediately to help the marquis of Carabas.
While the guards were pulling the poor marquis out of the river, Puss approached the carriage and explained to the king that while his master was bathing, robbers had taken away his clothes although he had cried “Stop, thief!” at the top of his voice. But truthfully, the clever cat ad hidden the clothes under a big stone.
The king at once commanded the keepers of his wardrobe to select a suite of his finest clothes for the marquis of Carabas.
The king greeted the marquis with many compliments and, the fine clothes that the marquis had just put on made him look like a gentleman and set off his good looks (for he was very handsome), the king’s daughter found him very much to her liking.
Indeed, the marquis of Carabas had not cast more than two or three tender glances upon her when the princess fell madly in love with him. The king then invited the marquis to get into the coach and ride with him. The king then invited the maruis to get into the coach and ride with them.
Delighted to see that his plan was beginning to work so successfully, the clever cat went ahead of the coach. Soon he came upon a group of peasants who were mowing a field of wheat. “Listen, my good fellows,” he said, “if you do not tell the king that the field that you are mowing belongs to the marquis of Carabas, you will all be chopped up into little pieces like mincemeat!”
Soon, the king arrived and he asked the mowers who owned the field on which they were working.
“It is the property of the marquis of Carabas,” they all cried in one voice, for the threat from Puss had frightened them terribly.
“you have inherited a fine estate,” the king said to the marquis.
“As you can see for yourself, Sire,” he replied, “the is a meadow that never fails to yield an abundant crop each year.”
Still traveling ahead of the others, Puss came upon some harvesters.
“Listen, my good fellows,” he said, “if you do not declare that every one of these fields belongs to the marquis of Carabas, you will all be chopped up into little bits like mincemeat!”
The king came by a moment later and wished to know who owned the fields he saw before him.
“It is the marquis of Carabas,” cried the harvesters.
At this the king was more pleased than ever with the marquis and he complimented him on his many noble possessions.
Traveling ahead of the coach, Puss made the same threat to all the people he met, and the king was astonished at the great wealth of the marquis.
Finally, Puss reached a splendid castle which belonged to a giant ogre. He was the richest ogre that had ever been known, for all the lands through which the coach has passed, and which the king admired, were part of the castle’s domain.
The cat had taken care to learn everything he could about the ogre and what powers he possessed.
Puss now asked to speak with the ogre, saying that he did not wish to pass so close to the castle without having the honor of paying his respects to the owner. Puss entered a large room where the ogre received him as politely as an agre could and invited Puss to sit down.
“I’ve been told,” said Puss, “that you have the power to change yourself into any kind of animal that you would like to—for example, I have heard that you can transform yourself into a lion or an elephant.”
“that is perfectly true,” said the ogre sternly, “and just to prove it to you, I will immediately turn into a lion.”
Puss was so frightened to suddenly find himself so close to a lion that he sprang away and climbed onto the roof of the castle, but not without much difficulty and danger, for his bots were not well suited for walking on roof tiles.
Some time later, when the cat saw that the ogre had changed himself back from a lion, Puss climbed down from the roof, admitting that he had indeed been very frightened.
“I have also been told,” PUss said to the ogre, “but I can scarcely believe it, that you have the power to take the shape of even the smallest animals—that you can change yourself into a rat or a mouse, for example. I must confess that to me that seems quite impossible.”
“Impossible? cried the ogre, “well, you shall see right away!” And at that very instant, the ogre changed himself into a small mouse, and began to run about on the floor to every corner of the room. No sooner did Puss see the tiny mouse, than he pounced on it and ate it.
In the meantime, the king came along and, admiring the ogre’s beautiful estate, ordered his coachman to drive up to the gate as he wished to visit the castle.
The cat heard the rumble of the coach as it crossed the castle drawbridge and running out to the courtyard, he cried out to the king, “Welcome, your Majesty, to the castle of the marquis of Carabas!”
“What’s that?” cried the king. “is this splended castle also yours, marquis? I have never seen anything more grand than this building and courtyard and grounds around it. No doubt the castle itself is just as magnificent on the inside. With your permission marquis, may we go inside and look around?” The marquis gave his hand to the young princess as she stepped out of the coach, and followed by the king, they they led the way up the great staircase. As they entered the large hall, they found there a magnificent feast that had been prepared by the ogre for some friends who were to pay him a visit that very day. When these guests heard that the king, the princess, and a great marquis were already inside the castle, they did not dare to enter and instead they turned away and left.
The king was now quite charmed with the excellent qualities and the great wealth of the marquis of Carabas, and the young princess was also completely captivated by him. In fact, she had fallen deeply in love with him.
When they had finished eating the great feast, and the king and princess were quite satisfied with the banquet, the king turned to the marquis and said “IT will be your own fault, marquis of Carabas, if you do not soon become my son-in-law.”
The marquis, bowing very low, and with a thousand expressions of gratitude and respect, accepted the great honor that the king bestowed upon him. That very same day, the marquis married the princess, and everyone celebrated with another grand feast. The princess and the marquis made much of Puss, who was treated as a guest of honor at the wedding table.
The marquis promised Puss a comfortable life at the castle for the rest of his life. Puss became a personage of great importance and gave up hunting mice, except for his own amusement.