THE WHITE CAT 1G7
laughed when ne saw it contained only its own kernel. He opened that and found a grain of wheat, and in that was a millet seed. Then he himself began to wonder, and muttered softly:
' "White Cat, "White Cat, are you making fun of me ? '
In an instant he felt a cat's claw give his hand quite a sharp scratch, and hoping that it was meant as an encouragement he opened the millet seed, and drew out of it a piece of muslin four hundred ells long, woven with the loveliest colours and most wonderful patterns; and when the needle was brought it went through the eye six times with the greatest ease ! The King turned pale, and the other Princes stood silent and sorrowful, for nobody could deny that this was the most marvellous piece of muslin that was to be found in the world.
Presently the King turned to his sons, and said, with a deep sigh :
' Nothing could console me more in my old age than to realise your willingness to gratify 1113' wishes. Go then once more, and whoever at the end of a year can bring back the loveliest princess shall be married to her, and shall, without further delay, receive the crown, for my successor must certainly be married.' The Prince considered that he had earned the kingdom fairly twice over, but still he was too well bred to argue about it, so he just went back to his gorgeous chariot, and, surrounded by his escort, returned to the "White Cat faster than he had come. This time she was expecting him, the path was strewn with flowers, and a thousand braziers were burning scented woods which perfumed the air. Seated in a gallery from which she could see his arrival, the "White Cat waited for him. ' Well, King's son,' she said. ' here you are once more, without a crown.' ' Madam,' said he, ' thanks to your generosity I have earned one twice over ; but the fact is that my father is so loth to part with it that it would be no pleasure to me to take it.'
' Never mind,' she answered ; ' it's just as well to try and deserve it. As you must take back a lovely princess with you next time I will be on the look-out for one for you. In the meantime let us enjoy ourselves ; to-night I have ordered a battle between my cats and the river rats, on purpose to amuse you.' So this year slipped away even more pleasantly than the preceding ones. Sometimes the Prince could not help asking the White Cat how it was she could talk.
' Perhaps you are a fairy,' he said. ' Or has some enchanter changed you into a cat ? '