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Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know

He drew forth a piece of cambric four hundred yards long


alas! with no better success:

for though his piece of cambric was exquisitely fine, yet it could not be drawn through the eye of the needle. It was now the youngest prince's turn, who accordingly advanced, and opening an elegant little box inlaid with jewels, he took out a walnut, and cracked the shell, imagining he should immediately perceive his piece of cambric; but what was his astonishment to see nothing but a filbert! He did not however lose his hopes; he cracked the filbert, and it presented him with a cherry-stone. The lords of the court, who had assembled to witness this extraordinary trial, could not, any more than the princes his brothers, refrain from laughing, to think he should be so silly as to claim with them the crown on no better pretensions. The prince however cracked the cherry-stone, which was filled with a kernel: he divided it, and found in the middle a grain of wheat, and in that grain a millet seed. He was now absolutely confounded, and could not help muttering between his teeth: "O white cat, white cat, thou hast deceived me!" At this instant he felt his hand scratched by the claw of a cat: upon which he again took courage, and opening the grain of millet seed, to the astonishment of all present, he drew forth a piece of cambric four hundred yards long, and fine enough to be drawn with perfect ease through the eye of the needle. When the king found he had no pretext left for refusing the crown to his youngest son, he sighed deeply, and it was easy to be seen that he was sorry for
the prince's success. "My sons," said he, "it is so gratifying to the heart of a father to receive proofs of his children's love and obedience, that I cannot refuse myself the satisfaction of requiring of you one thing more. You must undertake another expedition; and whichever, by the end of a year, brings me the most beautiful lady, shall marry her, and obtain my crown."

So they again took leave of the king and of each other, and set out without delay, and in less than twelve hours our young prince arrived in his splendid car at the palace of his dear white cat. Every thing went on as before, till the end of another year. At length only one day remained of the year, when the white cat thus addressed him: "To-morrow, my prince, you must present yourself at the palace of your father, and give him a proof of your obedience. It depends only on yourself to conduct thither the most beautiful princess ever yet beheld, for the time is come when the enchantment by which I am bound may be ended. You must cut off my head and tail," continued she, "and throw them into the fire." "I!" said the prince hastily, "I cut off your head and tail! You surely mean to try my affection, which, believe me, beautiful cat, is truly yours." "You mistake me, generous prince," said she, "I do not doubt your regard; but if you wish to see me in any other form than that of a cat, you must consent to do as I desire. Then you will have done me a service I shall never be able sufficiently to repay." The prince's eyes filled with tears as she spoke, yet he considered himself obliged to undertake the dreadful task, and the cat continuing to press him with greater eagerness, with a trembling hand he drew his sword, cut off her head and tail, and threw them into the fire. No sooner was this done, than the most beautiful lady his eyes had ever seen stood before him: and before he had sufficiently recovered from his surprise to speak to her, a long train of attendants, who, at the same moment as their mistress, were changed to their natural shapes, came to offer their congratulations to the queen, and inquire her commands. She received them with the greatest kindness; and ordering them to withdraw, she thus addressed the astonished prince. "Do not imagine, dear prince, that I have always been a cat, or that I am of obscure birth. My father was the monarch of six kingdoms; he tenderly loved my mother, leaving her always at liberty to follow her own inclinations. Her prevailing passion was to travel; and a short time before my birth, having heard of some fairies who were in possession of the largest gardens filled with the most delicious fruits, she had so strong a desire to eat some of them, that she set out for the country in which they lived. She arrived at their abode which she found to be a magnificent palace, on all sides glittering with gold and precious stones. She knocked a long time at the gates; but no one came, nor could she perceive the least sign that it had any inhabitant. The difficulty, however, did but increase the violence of my mother's longing; for she saw the tops of the trees above the garden walls loaded with the most luscious fruits. The queen, in despair, ordered her attendants to place tents close to the door of the palace; but having waited six weeks, without seeing any one pass the gates, she fell sick of vexation, and her life was despaired of.


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