Once upon a time there was a miller who had three sons. When he died he left his mill to the eldest son, his ass to the second son, and his cat to the youngest, who had always been his favourite.
The two eldest sons resolved to live together; but they would not let their brother live with them, because he had only a cat. So the poor lad was very sorrowful, and wondered what he should do to get his bread. While he was sitting thinking about it, Puss jumped up on the table, and touched him with her paw.
“My dear master,” she said, “do not fret. I will get your living for you. Only you must buy me a pair of boots and give me a bag.”
The miller’s son had very little money, but he thought it such a wonderful thing to hear a cat talk that he could not refuse her request. So he took Puss to the shoemaker’s, and got him to make her a very smart pair of boots, and then he gave her a nice large bag.
Now, not far from the mill there was a rabbit warren, and Puss resolved to catch some rabbits for dinner. So she put some lettuce leaves and fine parsley into her bag, went into the warren, and held the bag very quietly open, hiding herself behind it. And little greedy rabbits, who knew no better, ran into it, to have a feast. Directly they were safe in, Puss pulled the string of the bag, and carried them off to her master. The miller’s son killed them, and cooked one for dinner; but Puss took away the other, which was a very fine one, and hung it up for their next day’s meal.
But although their larder was thus provided, early the next day Puss took her bag and went again into the warren, and in the same manner caught two more fine young rabbits. But instead of carrying them home she walked to the king’s palace and knocked at the door.
The king’s porter asked who was there. “I have brought a present to the king,” said Puss. “Please let me see his majesty.”
The porter let her in, and when Puss came into the king’s presence she made a low bow, and, taking a fine rabbit out of her bag, said, “My Lord Marquis of Carrabas sends this rabbit to your majesty with his respects.”
“I am much obliged to the marquis,” said the king, and he ordered his head cook to dress the rabbit for dinner.
By the king’s side sat his daughter, a very beautiful lady. She ordered one of the attendants to give Puss a good cup of cream, which she liked very much; and she went home and told her master all she had done. The miller’s son laughed; but every morning Puss caught a rabbit, and carried it to the palace with the same message.
Now, in that country there lived a cruel ogre, who used to eat children, so everybody was afraid of him; but nobody could kill him, he was such a giant. One day Puss went to call on him. He received her civilly, for he did not care to eat cats, so Puss sat down, and began to talk:—”I hear,” she said, “great Ogre, that you are so clever, that you can turn yourself into any creature you please.”
“Yes, so I can,” said the ogre.
“Dear me,” said Puss, “how much I should like to see your ogreship do it.”
Then the ogre, who liked to show how clever he was, turned himself into a lion, and roared so loudly that Puss was quite frightened, and jumped out of the way. Then he changed back into an ogre again. Puss praised him a great deal, and then said, “Can your ogreship become a small animal as well as a large one?”
“Oh, yes,” said the vain ogre; and he changed himself into a little mouse. Directly Puss saw him in this form she jumped at him and killed him on the spot.
Then Puss ran home and bade her master go and bathe in the river, and he should see what she would do for him. The miller’s son obeyed; and while he was in the water, Puss took away all his clothes, and hid them under a large stone. Now, the king’s carriage came in sight soon after, just as Puss had expected, for he always drove in that direction, and directly she saw it, she began to cry very loudly, “Help, help, for my Lord the Marquis of Carrabas.” The king put his head out, and asked what was the matter.
“Oh, your majesty,” said Puss, “my master the marquis was bathing, and some one has taken away his clothes. He will catch the cramp and be drowned.”
Then the king ordered one of his attendants to ride back to the palace and get a suit of his own clothes for the marquis, “who had so often sent him gifts,” he said. And when they were brought, Puss took them to her master, and helped him to dress in them.
The miller’s son looked quite like a gentleman in the king’s clothes, and when he went to thank his majesty for them, the king asked him to get into the coach and he would drive him home. Then Puss told the coachman where to go, and ran on before and came to some reapers. “Reapers,” said she, “if the king asks you whose field this is, say it belongs to the Marquis of Carrabas; if you don’t say so, you shall be chopped up as small as mincemeat.”
The reapers were so frightened that they promised to obey her. And she ran on and told all the other labourers on the road to say the same. So when the king asked, “To whom do these fine fields belong?” the reapers answered, “To the Marquis of Carrabas.” The herdsmen said the same of the cattle, and the king, turning to the miller’s son, said, “My lord, you have a fine property.” But all had belonged really to the ogre, for it was to his castle the cunning cat had told the coachman to drive.
At last the coach stopped at the Ogre’s castle, and Puss came out, and bowing very low, said, “Your majesty and the princess are welcome to the castle of my Lord Marquis of Carrabas.”
The king was delighted, for it was indeed a very nice castle, full of riches. They sat down to a great feast, which Puss ordered to be served, and the king was so pleased with the miller’s son and thought him such a good match for the princess, that he invited him to court, and in a little while gave him his daughter for his wife, and made him a prince.
You may be quite sure that the miller’s son was very grateful to Puss for his good fortune, and she never had to catch mice for her dinner any more, for dainty meat and the best cream were every day given to Puss in Boots.