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Main > Arabic folktales > Fairy tale "The Two Cats"

The Two Cats

In former days there was an old woman, who lived in a hut more confined than the minds of the ignorant, and more dark than the tombs of misers. Her companion was a cat, from the mirror of whose imagination the appearance of bread had never been reflected, nor had she from friends or strangers ever heard its name. It was enough that she now and then scented a mouse, or observed the print of its feet on the floor; when, blessed by favouring stars or benignant fortune, one fell into her claws—

“She became like a beggar who discovers a treasure of gold; Her cheeks glowed with rapture, and past grief was consumed by present joy.”

This feast would last for a week or more; and while enjoying it she was wont to exclaim—

“Am I, O God, when I contemplate this, in a dream or awake? Am I to experience such prosperity after such adversity?”

But as the dwelling of the old woman was in general the mansion of famine to this cat, she was always complaining, and forming extravagant and fanciful schemes. One day, when reduced to extreme weakness, she, with much exertion, reached the top of the hut; when there she observed a cat stalking on the wall of a neighbour’s house, which, like a fierce tiger, advanced with measured steps, and was so loaded with flesh that she could hardly raise her feet. The old woman’s friend was amazed to see one of her own species so fat and sleek, and broke out into the following exclamation:—

“Your stately strides have brought you here at last; pray tell me from whence you come? From whence have you arrived with so lovely an appearance? You look as if from the banquet of the Khan of Khatai. Where have you acquired such a comeliness? and how came you by that glorious strength?”

The other answered, “I am the Sultan’s crumb-eater. Each morning, when they spread the convivial table, I attend at the palace, and there exhibit my address and courage. From among the rich meats and wheat-cakes I cull a few choice morsels; I then retire and pass my time till next day in delightful indolence.

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