|The Book of Fables and Folk Stories|
|by Horace Elisha Scudder|
|A choice collection of old folk tales and fables, attractively arranged and illustrated. Between each of the longer tales appear several short fables, offering a varied reading experience for the young reader for whom it is intended. Ages 6-9 |
THE WHITE CAT
THE PALACE OF THE WHITE CAT
 A KING had three sons, handsome, brave, and generous.
Some persons about the court, however, made him
believe, that these sons were eager to have him die,
because each wanted to be king. This was not all true,
but the King believed it, and made a plan to get them
out of the way. He sent for them and said:—
"My dear sons, you must see that I am growing old, and
cannot attend to state affairs as I once used to. It is
right that I should make one of you king in my stead.
But first I should like something to amuse me when I am
no longer king. I think I should like best a little
dog. Now, the one of you who brings me the most perfect
little dog shall be king in my stead."
The princes were much surprised at the fancy of their
father to have a little dog, but they all agreed to do
as he had asked. They bade him good-by, and promised to
come back in a year. They went off together to an old
palace three miles away. There they had something to
eat, and then set off on separate roads. But they
 agreed to meet again at the palace at the end of the
Now, we will see what happened to the youngest of the
three brothers. He went from town to town looking for
handsome dogs. He bought one, and then, when he found a
handsomer dog, he bought that and gave the other away.
At last he found himself in a wood. Night came on, and
it began to rain. There were thunder and lightning, and
he lost his way. He groped about and saw a light in the
distance. He went toward it, and soon was in front of a
The door to the palace was of gold, studded with
sapphires, and these shone with bright light. This was
the light the Prince had seen. The walls of the palace
were of fine china, and there were wonderful paintings
upon them. These paintings showed the adventures of all
the fairies from the beginning of the world.
The Prince saw a deer's foot hanging by the side of the
door. It was hung at the end of a chain of diamonds,
and was plainly a bell-pull. He was greatly astonished,
for he saw no one, and he wondered that thieves had not
long ago stolen the diamonds and the sapphires.
He pulled the deer's foot and heard a bell ring. Soon
the golden door opened. He saw
 nobody, but he saw
twelve Hands in the air, each holding a torch. He
looked and did not know what to do. Then he felt
himself gently pushed from behind, so he walked on into
the palace. There he heard a voice singing:—
"Welcome, Prince, no danger fear,
Mirth and love attend you here."
The Hands with torches led him through one door after
another, into one room after another. Each room was
more splendid than the last. Finally the Hands drew a
chair near a fire, and beckoned him to sit down.
The Hands he saw were white and fair. They took away
his wet clothes, and brought him new fine linen, and a
warm wrapper in which he sat before the fire. Then they
placed before him a glass upon a stand, and began to
comb and brush his hair gently. They brought a bowl
with perfumed water in it, and washed his face and
Now the Prince was fresh and warm, and the Hands gave
him a princely suit of clothes. When he was dressed,
they led him out of the chamber to a grand hall. Here a
table was set with rich and dainty food. Two plates
were on the table, and the Prince wondered who was to
eat with him.
A YEAR OF SPORT
 JUST then he looked up and saw a small figure coming
toward him. It was covered with a long black veil, and
was not more than a foot high. On each side walked a
cat dressed in black, and behind him came a great
number of cats, some carrying cages full of rats, and
others mouse-traps filled with mice.
The Prince did not know what to think. The little
figure drew near, and drew aside her veil. It was a
cat, a beautiful White Cat, but looking sad and gentle.
She said to the Prince:—
"You are welcome, Prince. It makes me glad to have you
"Madam," said the Prince, "I thank you for all your
goodness to me. I cannot help thinking you must be a
wonderful being, to have this beautiful palace, to be
able to speak, and yet—to be a cat!"
"That is true," said the Cat, "but I do not like to
talk, and I do not like to hear fine things said to me.
Let us sit down to supper."
The Hands then placed some dishes on the table, in
front of the Prince and the White Cat.
 The Prince had a
pie made of young pigeons, but the White Cat had one
made of fat mice. The Prince at first did not like to
touch his food. He was not quite sure what it was, but
the White Cat told him not to be afraid. The dishes
before him had no bit of rat or mouse in them.
When supper was over, the Prince noticed that the White
Cat carried a little picture hung by a cord upon one of
her feet. He asked to look at it. It was a portrait of
a young man. To his great surprise, it was his own
He did not ask the White Cat to explain this, for she
had a look which forbade him. They talked together
about many things, and then the White Cat bade the
Prince good-night. The Hands, with torches, led him to
his chamber, and there he slept.
He was waked in the morning by a noise outside. He got
up, and the Hands brought him a handsome
hunting-jacket. The noise kept on, and he looked out of
the window. There he saw more than five hundred cats in
the open space before the palace. They were making
ready for a hunt.
The White Cat soon came and asked him to join their
sport, and he was given a wooden horse to ride on. The
White Cat mounted a
 monkey. She wore a dragoon's cap,
which made her look very bold and fierce.
The horns sounded, and away they went. The cats ran
faster than hares and rabbits, and when they caught
any, they brought them to the Prince and the White Cat.
They chased birds as well as rabbits. Up the trees they
went, and the White Cat on the monkey climbed more
quickly than any, and mounted the highest trees, to the
When the chase was over, they all went back to the palace.
The White Cat sat down at the table with the Prince,
and they had a fine supper. Again the Hands led the
Prince to his chamber, and he slept soundly.
So it went on day after day. Every day there was some
new pleasure, and the White Cat was so gentle, so
sweet, and so thoughtful, that the Prince could not
bear to think of leaving the palace.
"How can I go away from you?" he cried one day. "Can
you not make me a cat to live here always? or, can you
not make yourself a lady?" But the White Cat only
smiled, and made no answer.
At last a year had almost gone. The White Cat knew what
day the Prince must return to
 his father, and told him
that he had but three days left.
"Alas!" said the Prince. "What shall I do? I have not
yet found a dog small enough."
"Never fear," said the White Cat. "I will see that you
have a dog, and I will also give you a wooden horse, so
that you can ride home in a few hours."
When the day came, the White Cat gave the Prince an
acorn, and told him to put it close to his ear. He did
so, and could hear a little dog barking inside the
acorn. He was delighted, and thanked the White Cat a
THE LITTLE DOG AND THE CAMBRIC
THE Prince mounted his wooden horse, and soon was at
the place where he was to meet his brothers. The two
eldest told their stories. The youngest kept silence,
and showed only a cheap cur. The brothers trod on each
other's toes under the table, as much as to say, "We
have nothing to fear from this dog."
The next day they all went to the palace. The dogs of
the two elder brothers were brought in on soft rugs;
they were wrapped about in silk
 quilts, and it was hard
to see anything of them. However, the King looked at
each, and could not make up his mind which was the
smaller and prettier. So the two princes began to
At this the youngest son came forward. Nobody had
looked at his cur, but now he showed them his acorn. He
broke the shell, and out jumped a little dog. He held
his finger ring, and the dog leaped through it. There
was no doubt now who had the smallest and the prettiest
The King could not possibly find any fault with the
dog, but he could not bear to give up his crown yet. So
he thanked his sons for their trouble, and asked them
to try once more. He wished them to be gone a year, and
at the end of that time to bring him a fine piece of
cambric. It must be fine enough to be drawn through the
eye of a small needle.
The three princes thought this very hard, but they set
off as before. The two eldest took different roads. The
youngest mounted his wooden horse, and quickly came to
the palace of the White Cat. There he was received with
great joy. The Hands helped him to dismount, and the
table was spread before him. The best food was given
him, and the White Cat sat
oppo-  site. He told her what a
hard task his father had set.
"Do not be troubled," she said. "I have cats in my
palace who can make just such cambric. So be at ease
and enjoy yourself."
The Prince knew how to enjoy himself. He talked with
the White Cat about all sorts of things, and they
hunted together. And when he was alone, he could think
about the White Cat, and what she said last. Oh, yes,
he knew how to enjoy himself.
Thus another year went by. At the end of the year the
White Cat said to the Prince:—
"This time you must go in state."
Then he saw in the yard a splendid carriage, covered
with gold and diamonds. Twelve horses as white as snow
were harnessed to it, and a troop of horsemen was ready
to ride behind and by the side of the carriage. The
White Cat bade the Prince good-by, and gave him a
"In this nut," she said, "is the cambric. But you must
not open the nut till you come before the King."
Away went the horses, and carried the Prince in a
twinkling to the King's palace. His two brothers were
already there. They all went into
 the King's presence,
and the eldest brought out his piece of cambric. No one
had ever seen anything so fine. The King took the
needle. The tip end of the cambric went through the
eye, but the piece could not be pulled further.
The second son tried, but his piece failed also. Then
the youngest Prince came forward with an elegant box,
covered with jewels. He opened the box and took out the
walnut. He smiled, and looked about, and cracked the
shell. Then he looked sober. There was no cambric
there, only a filbert.
However, he cracked the shell of the filbert. Out came
a cherry-stone. He looked more serious still. The
brothers and the lords of the court began to laugh.
What could be more silly than this Prince with his
The Prince now cracked the cherry-stone, and took out
the kernel. He split it, and found a grain of wheat; he
opened the grain of wheat, and there was a grain of
millet-seed. All the court was now laughing. The Prince
grew red in the face and muttered:—
"O White Cat, White Cat, you have deceived me."
When he said this, he felt a scratch on his
 arm. He saw
nothing, but it was just as if a cat scratched him.
That brought him to his senses. He opened the
millet-seed very carefully, and drew forth a piece of
cambric. It was four hundred yards long, and was so
fine that it was easily drawn through the eye of the
The King could ask nothing more. But he was not ready
to give up his crown, so he said to his sons:—
"You have done nobly. Now one of you must be king. But
it will not do for one to be king without a queen. So
go away and find the most beautiful woman in the world.
At the end of the year come back. The one who brings
the most beautiful woman shall marry her and have my
THE WHITE CAT HAS HER HEAD CUT OFF
THE three brothers set off again on their travels, and
the youngest rode straight to the palace of the White
Cat. He could not bear to speak or think of his errand.
He was so happy, however, with the White Cat that he
quite forgot everything for another year. At the end of
 that time, the White Cat herself reminded him what he
had to do.
"You must now go back to your father, but you shall
take with you a beautiful princess. Cut off my head and
my tail, and throw them into the fire."
"I!" said the Prince. "I cut off your head and tail!
How can I, when I love you so?"
"You must. That is the way to prove your love. If you
love me, do as I bid you."
The Prince looked at the White Cat. Her eyes said the
same thing to him. He took his sword, and did as she
bade him. No sooner had he done this than the White Cat
was gone, and a beautiful princess stood before him. At
the same moment the room was full of maids and
gentlemen. All the cats were gone. The Prince was
astonished. The beautiful princess sent away all the
people, and then told the story of her life to the
THE WHITE CAT'S STORY
"DO not think I have always been a cat. My father was
a king, and had six kingdoms. He loved my mother
dearly, and let her do just as
 she wished. She liked
best to travel and to see new sights. One day she heard
of a distant country where the fairies had a garden,
and in this garden was the most delicious fruit ever
"She wished at once to taste this fruit, and so she set
off for the country. She came to a noble palace and
knocked at the gate. No one came out. She waited. No
one appeared anywhere in sight. But over the garden
wall she saw the fruit.
"My mother bade her servants pitch her tent close by
the gate. There she stayed six weeks. Yet she saw no
one go in or out. She was so vexed and so disappointed
that at the end of six weeks she fell sick.
"One night, when she was almost dead, she opened her
eyes and saw an old woman, small and ugly. It was one
of the fairies who owned the garden. This old woman was
sitting in a chair by the bed, and spoke to my mother.
" 'Why do you come here for our fruit?' she asked. 'My
sisters and I do not like it at all. We did not mean
you should have any. But now you are very ill, and we
do not want you to die here; you may have all you want,
if you will give us what we ask and then go away.'
 " 'Oh,' said my mother, 'I will give you everything I
have, to the half of my kingdom, if you will only give
me the fruit.'
" 'Very well. You will have a child. When the child is
born, give her to us. We will take care of her, and she
shall be a beautiful princess.'
" 'That is pretty hard,' said my mother, 'but I must
have the fruit, or I shall die. So the child shall be
"Then my mother rose and dressed, and went into the
garden. Here she ate her fill. Besides, she ordered
four thousand mules to be loaded with the fruit, for
it was of a kind that would never spoil. Thus she
traveled back to my father. He was overjoyed to see
her, and she said nothing of the promise she had given.
"By and by, however, she grew sad, and my father asked
her what troubled her. Then she told him the whole
story. At first he was greatly troubled, but he began
to think how he should prevent the fairies from getting
"As soon as I was born he had me taken to the top of a
high tower. There were twenty flights of stairs leading
up to the room in which I was placed. A door was at the
foot of each flight, and was locked, and my father
 the key. He did not mean that any one should get
"When the fairies heard of this, they were very angry.
They sent forth a great dragon, and the dragon breathed
forth fire, and burnt up the grass and the trees. It
was very fierce, too, and killed men, women, and
children. So my father was filled with dismay, and sent
word that the fairies should have me."
THE WHITE CAT'S STORY ENDED
"I WAS placed in a cradle of mother-of-pearl, and
carried to the palace by the garden where my mother had
eaten the fruit. The dragon at once disappeared, and
all went well in my father's kingdom.
"The fairies gave me a room in a tower, and I had
everything I could ask. Here I grew up. I knew nothing
of my father or mother. The fairies came to see me, but
they rode the dragon, and flew in at the window. You
must know there was no door to the tower. There were
windows, high up from the ground, and there was a
garden upon the top of the tower.
"The fairies were very kind to me, and all
 went well. I
played in the garden on the tower, and I had my birds
and flowers. But one day I was sitting at one of the
windows talking with my parrot, when I saw a
fine-looking man below. He stood listening to the
parrot and me.
"I have never seen a man except in pictures, and I was
very glad to see this one. We spoke to each other
through the window and so it went on day after day. At
last I thought I could not bear to live alone in the
tower, and I planned to escape.
"I begged the fairies to bring me some cord and
needles, to make net with. There were birds flying
about, and if had a net I could catch one. They gave me
these things, and I made a ladder which reached from my
window to the ground.
"I meant to climb down the ladder, but before I could
do so my lover had climbed up. He leaped in at my
window. At first I was frightened, but then I was glad
to have him with me. He gave me a picture of himself,
but while we were talking the fairy Violent flew in at
the window on the back of the dragon. She was in a
great rage, and bade the dragon at once devour my
"I tried to cast myself into the mouth of the
for I no longer cared to live. But the fairy held me
back, and said she had another punishment for me. She
touched me with her wand, and I became at once a White
"She brought me to this palace, and gave me a troop of
cats to wait on me. They were lords and ladies who had
been turned into cats. The Hands were the hands of
servants who could not be seen. Here I was to stay a
cat until a prince should come who looked exactly like
my lover, and who should cut off my head and my tail.
"My Prince, look at this picture. It is your exact
image. You have saved me from the fairies, and I love
you with all my heart."
The Prince was overjoyed. He made haste to set out for
his father's palace with the beautiful princess. Again
the brothers stood before the King, each with a
beautiful princess. The King was now at his wit's end,
but the princess, who had lately been a White Cat, came
forward and said:—
"O King, it is a thousand pities that you should give
up your kingdom. You are not old. You are very wise,
and ought to reign many years. I have six kingdoms. Let
me give one to each of your two eldest sons. Then the
youngest son and I will still have four kingdoms.
than all, you will not have to decide which of us three
princesses is the most beautiful."
Everybody set up a shout. The three weddings took place
at once, and the kingdoms were divided among the
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics