There was once a miller who, when he died, had nothing to leave to his three sons but a mill, a donkey, and a cat. The mill he left to his eldest son, the donkey to the second, and to the youngest he left the cat.
The youngest son was very unhappy. "Alas!" he said, "This cat is of no use to me and I am too, poor to feed her."
"Do not grieve, dear master," said the cat. "You have only to give me a bag and get a pair of boots made for me, so that I may scamper through the dirt and brambles, and you shall find that you are not so badly off as you think."
Now this surprised the miller's son very much, and he thought to himself, a cat that can speak is perhaps wonderful enough to do as she promises. So he brought her the bag and had the boots made for her.
Puss put on the boots with a proud air, slung the bag over her shoulder, and went to the garden. There she gathered some lettuces and put them into the bag. Next she went across the field until she came to a rabbit hole. Then shelay down as if dead, leaving the top of her bag open. A plump rabbit soon peeped out of the hole and, smelling the lettuce, came nearer. It was too tempting. The rabbit's head followed his nose into the bag. The cat quickly pulled the strings and the rabbit was dead.
Proud of her prey, Puss marched with it to the palace and asked to see the king. She was brought before the throne and there, with a low bow, Puss said, "Sire, pray accept this rabbit as a gift from my lord the Marquis of Carrabas, who commanded me to present it to Your Majesty with the assurance of his respect."
"Tell your master," said the king, "that I accept his gift and am much obliged."
A few days later, Puss again went to the field. Again she lay down
as if dead with her sack open beside her. This time she captured two fine partridges. Again the cat went to the king and presented the partridges as she had done the rabbit. They, too, were accepted, and the king was so pleased that he ordered the cat to be taken to the kitchen and fed. In this manner, at least once a week, the cat continued to take presents of game to the king from the Marquis of Carrabas.
One day, Puss heard that the king and his beautiful daughter were going to drive along the riverside. The daughter was said to be the most beautiful princess in the world.
"My master," said the cat to the miller's son, "if you will do as I tell you, your fortune is made."
"What would you have me do?" asked the miller's son.
"Only this, dear master. Bathe in the river at a spot I shall show you and believe that you are not yourself but the Marquis of Carrabas."
The miller's son was in a gloomy mood, and did not mind much what he did, so he answered, "Very well, Puss." He went to the river and while he was bathing, the king and all his court passed by and were startled by the cry, "Help, help! My Lord the Marquis of Carrabas is drowning!"
When the king put his head out of the carriage, he saw the cat who had brought him so many presents. He ordered his attendants to go to the assistance of the Marquis of Carrabas. While they were dragging the marquis out of the water, the cat ran to the king, made a low bow, and said, "Your Majesty, what shall my poor master do, for a thief has stolen his clothes?" Now the truth was that the cunning cat had hidden the clothes under a large stone.
"That is most unfortunate," said the king, and he gave orders to a servant to fetch a suit from the castle.
When the miller's son was dressed in the fine clothes he looked like a gentleman, and very handsome. The princess was taken with his appearance, and the Marquis of Carrabas had no sooner cast upon her two or three respectful glances than she fell in love with him. The king insisted that he get into the carriage and take a ride with them.
The cat ran on ahead of the carriage and, reaching a meadow where mowers were cutting the grass, he said to them, "Unless you tell the king when he asks you that these meadows belong to the Marquis of Carrabas, you shall be chopped as fine as mincemeat."
When the king drove by and asked the mowers who owned the meadows they answered, trembling, "They belong to the Marquis of Carrabas, Your Majesty." The king then turned to the miller's son and said, "You indeed own fine meadows, my lord."
Meantime, Puss had run on farther and reached a cornfield in which there were reapers busy at work. "Now, if the king drives by,"
said the cat to the reapers, "and inquires to whom these fields belong, you must say that they are the property of the Marquis of Carrabas. If you do not, you shall be chopped as fine as mincemeat." So when the king drove by and asked whose fields these were, the frightened reapers answered, "They belong to the Marquis of Carrabas, Your Majesty. "
"What a rich man he must be and how handsome he looks!" said the king to himself as he looked at the miller's son. "I do believe he would be a good husband for my daughter."
Now the fields really belonged to an ogre who lived in a castle a little farther on. When the cat reached the castle she knocked at the door, which was opened by the ogre himself.
"Sir," said Puss, "I am on a journey, and since I have often heard how wonderful you are, I have taken the liberty to call to see you."
"Come in," said the ogre, who was always pleased to be thought wonderful.
"I have heard," continued Puss, "that you can change into any animal you like."
"I can," said the ogre and he instantly changed into a lion. The cat got such a fright that she ran up the wall nearly to the ceiling. But the ogre at once became an ogre again, and the cat jumped down.
"Sir, you really frightened me. But you must admit that it is not so wonderful for such a big gentleman to change into a big animal as it would be if he could change into a little one. I suppose you could not, for instance, change into a mouse."
"Could not?" cried the ogre. "You shall see." And in a moment Puss saw a little brown mouse running about the floor. With one spring she pounced upon it and gobbled it up. And that was the end of the ogre.
By this time the king had arrived at the castle. Puss, hearing the carriage wheels, ran to the gate and cried, "Welcome, Your Majesty, to the castle of the Marquis of Carrabas!"
"What, my lord!" cried the king, turning to the miller's son, "Does this castle also belong to you? I have nothing so fine in my whole kingdom."
The miller's son did not speak, but gave his hand to the princess to help her to alight from the carriage. They entered the castle and, in the dining hall, found preparations for a grand feast, which the ogre had planned to serve to some guests he had expected. But the ogre's friends did not arrive, since news reached them that the king was in the castle.
Every moment the king became more and more charmed with the miller's son. After they had feasted he said, "There is no one in the world I should like so much to be my son-in-law. I now create you a prince."
Then the prince said there was no one in the world he would like so much for his wife as the princess. And the princess said there was no one in the world she would like so much for a husband as the prince. So the two were married and lived happily ever after in the ogre's castle.
And Puss was made a lady-in-waiting. She was the greatest favorite with the king and the prince and the princess. Never again did she have to hunt mice for a meal, but she was served all kinds of delicacies until the end of her days.