266 THE LION AND THE CAT
torrents that, however sharp your eyes or your nose might be, you could not spy a single bird or beast among the bushes. ' Dear me, how dull, how dreadfully dull I am. Couldn't we have a game of catch with that golden ball of yours ? '
' I don't care about playing catch, it does not amuse me,' answered the cat, who was as cross as ever; for no cat, even to this day, ever forgets an injury done to him.
' Well, then, lend me the ball for a little, and I will play by myself,' replied the lion, stretching out a paw as he spoke.
' You can't play in the rain, and if you did, you would only lose it in the bushes,' said the cat.
' Oh, no, I won't; I will play in here. Don't be so ill-natured.' And with a very bad grace the cat untied the string and threw the golden ball into the lion's lap, and composed himself to sleep again.
For a long while the lion tossed it up and down gaily, feeling that, however sound asleep the boy-brother might look, he was sure to have one eye open; but gradually he began to edge closer to the opening, and at last gave such a toss that the ball went up high into the air, and he could not see what became of it.
' Oh, how stupid of me !' he cried, as the cat sprang up angrily, ' let us go at once and search for it. It can't really have fallen very far.' But though they searched that day and the next, and the next after that, they never found it, because it never came down.
After the loss of his ball the cat refused to live with the lion any longer, but wandered away to the north, always hoping he might meet with his ball again. But months passed, and years passed, and though he travelled over hundreds of miles, he never saw any traces of it.
At length, when he was getting quite old, he came to a place unlike any that he had ever seen before, where a