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The Queen's Cat





Once there was a great and powerful King who was as good as gold and as
brave as a lion, but he had one weakness, which was a horror of cats. If
he saw one through an open window he shuddered so that his medals
jangled together and his crown fell off; if any one mentioned a cat at
the table he instantly spilled his soup all down the front of his
ermine; and if by any chance a cat happened to stroll into the audience
chamber, he immediately jumped on to his throne, gathering his robes
around him and shrieking at the top of his lungs.

Now this King was a bachelor and his people didn't like it; so being
desirous of pleasing them, he looked around among the neighbouring royal
families and hit upon a very sweet and beautiful princess, whom he asked
in marriage without any delay, for he was a man of action.

Her parents giving their hearty consent, the pair were married at her
father's palace; and after the festivities were over, the King sped home
to see to the preparation of his wife's apartments. In due time she
arrived, bringing with her a cat. When he saw her mounting the steps
with the animal under her arm, the King, who was at the door to meet
her, uttering a horrid yell, fell in a swoon and had to be revived with
spirits of ammonia. The courtiers hastened to inform the Queen of her
husband's failing, and when he came to, he found her in tears.

"I cannot exist without a cat!" she wept.

"And I, my love," replied the King, "cannot exist with one!"

"You must learn to bear it!" said she.

"You must learn to live without it!" said he.

"But life would not be worth living without a cat!" she wailed.

"Well, well, my love, we will see what we can do," sighed the King.

"Suppose," he went on, "you kept it in the round tower over there. Then
you could go to see it."

"Shut up my cat that has been used to running around in the open air?"
cried the Queen. "Never!"

"Suppose," suggested the King again, "we made an enclosure for it of
wire netting."

"My dear," cried the Queen, "a good strong cat like mine could climb out
in a minute."

"Well," said the King once more, "suppose we give it the palace roof,
and I will keep out of the way."

"That is a good scheme," said his wife, drying her eyes.

And they immediately fitted up the roof with a cushioned shelter, and a
bed of catnip, and a bench where the Queen might sit. There the cat was
left; and the Queen went up three times a day to feed it, and twice as
many times to visit it, and for almost two days that seemed the solution
of the problem. Then the cat discovered that by making a spring to the
limb of an overhanging oak tree, it could climb down the trunk and go
where it liked. This it did, making its appearance in the throne-room,
where the King was giving audience to an important ambassador. Much to
the amazement of the latter, the monarch leapt up screaming, and was
moreover so upset, that the affairs of state had all to be postponed
till the following day. The tree was, of course, cut down; and the next
day the cat found crawling down the gutter to be just as easy, and
jumped in the window while the court was at breakfast. The King
scrambled on to the breakfast table, skilfully overturning the cream and
the coffee with one foot, while planting the other in the poached eggs,
and wreaking untold havoc among the teacups. Again the affairs of state
were postponed while the gutter was ripped off the roof, to the fury of
the head gardener, who had just planted his spring seeds in the beds
around the palace walls. Of course the next rain washed them all away.

This sort of thing continued. The wistaria vine which had covered the
front of the palace for centuries, was ruthlessly torn down, the
trellises along the wings soon followed; and finally an ancient grape
arbour had perforce to be removed as it proved a sure means of descent
for that invincible cat. Even then, he cleverly utilized the balconies
as a ladder to the ground; but by this time the poor King's nerves were
quite shattered and the doctor was called in. All he could prescribe was
a total abstinence from cat; and the Queen, tearfully finding a home for
her pet, composed herself to live without one. The King, well cared for,
soon revived and was himself again, placidly conducting the affairs of
state, and happy in the society of his beloved wife. Not so the latter.

Before long it was noticed that the Queen grew wan, was often heard to
sniff, and seen to wipe her eyes, would not eat, could not sleep,--in
short, the doctor was again called in.

"Dear, dear," he said disconsolately, combing his long beard with his
thin fingers. "This is a difficult situation indeed. There must not be a
cat on the premises, or the King will assuredly have nervous
prostration. Yet the Queen must have a cat or she will pine quite away
with nostalgia."

"I think I had best return to my family," sobbed the poor Queen,
dejectedly. "I bring you nothing but trouble, my own."

"That is impossible, my dearest love," said the King decidedly--"Here my
people have so long desired me to marry, and now that I am at last
settled in the matrimonial way, we must not disappoint them. They enjoy
a Queen so much. It gives them something pretty to think about. Besides,
my love, I am attached to you, myself, and could not possibly manage
without you. No, my dear, there may be a way out of our difficulties,
but that certainly is not it." Having delivered which speech the King
lapsed again into gloom, and the doctor who was an old friend of the
King's went away sadly.

He returned, however, the following day with a smile tangled somewhere
in his long beard. He found the King sitting mournfully by the Queen's
bedside.

"Would your majesty," began the doctor, turning to the Queen, "object
to a cat that did not look like a cat?"

"Oh, no," cried she, earnestly, "just so it's a cat!"

"Would your majesty," said the doctor again, turning to the King,
"object to a cat that did not look like a cat?"

"Oh, no," cried he, "just so it doesn't look like a cat!"

"Well," said the doctor, beaming, "I have a cat that is a cat and that
doesn't look any more like a cat than a skillet, and I should be only
too honoured to present it to the Queen if she would be so gracious as
to accept it."

Both the King and the Queen were overjoyed and thanked the doctor with
tears in their eyes. So the cat--for it was a cat though you never would
have known it--arrived and was duly presented to the Queen, who welcomed
it with open arms and felt better immediately.

It was a thin, wiry, long-legged creature, with no tail at all, and
large ears like sails, a face like a lean isosceles triangle with the
nose as a very sharp apex, eyes small and yellow like flat buttons,
brown fur short and coarse, and large floppy feet. It had a voice like a
steam siren and its name was Rosamund.

The King and Queen were both devoted to it; she because it was a cat, he
because it seemed anything but a cat. No one indeed could convince the
King that it was not a beautiful animal, and he had made for it a
handsome collar of gold and amber--"to match," he said, sentimentally,
"its lovely eyes." In sooth so ugly a beast never had such a pampered
and luxurious existence, certainly never so royal a one. Appreciating
its wonderful good fortune, it never showed any inclination to depart;
and the King, the Queen, and Rosamund lived happily ever after.

PEGGY BACON.





Next: Calvin

Previous: Monty's Friend



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