The Cat who became Head-Forester
"All these years," she said—for though she was young she thought she had lived a long time—"all these years," she said, "I've lived in the forest, but I've never seen a wild beast like that before. What a strange-looking animal! And with only one ear. How handsome!"
And she came up and made her bows to the cat, and said,—
"Tell me, great lord, who you are. What fortunate chance has brought you to this forest? And by what name am I to call your Excellency?"
Oh! the fox was very polite. It is not every day that you meet a handsome stranger walking in the forest.
The cat arched his back, and set all his fur on end, and said, very slowly and quietly,—
"I have been sent from the far forests of Siberia to be Head-forester over you. And my name is Cat Ivanovitch."
"O Cat Ivanovitch!" says the pretty young fox, and she makes more bows. "I did not know. I beg your Excellency's pardon. Will your Excellency honour my humble house by visiting it as a guest?"
"I will," says the cat. "And what do they call you?"
"My name, your Excellency, is Lisabeta Ivanovna."
"I will come with you, Lisabeta," says the cat.
And they went together to the fox's earth. Very snug, very neat it was inside; and the cat curled himself up in the best place, while Lisabeta Ivanovna, the pretty young fox, made ready a tasty dish of game. And while she was making the meal ready, and dusting the furniture with her tail, she looked at the cat. At last she said, shyly,—
"Tell me, Cat Ivanovitch, are you married or single?"
"Single," says the cat.
"And I too am unmarried," says the pretty young fox, and goes busily on with her dusting and cooking.
Presently she looks at the cat again.
"What if we were to marry, Cat Ivanovitch? I would try to be a good wife to you."
"Very well, Lisabeta," says the cat; "I will marry you."
The fox went to her store and took out all the dainties that she had, and made a wedding feast to celebrate her marriage to the great Cat Ivanovitch, who had only one ear, and had come from the far Siberian forests to be Head-forester.