|By Walter Crane|
Editor's note: No, EC is not running new monthly writing contests. In my zeal finish up the contests, I neglected to publish Aliza's wonderful story. Here it is, and you'll be glad to read it!
There was once a rich marquis who had quite a lot to leave his first two sons in the manner of titles and privileges but naught to leave his youngest but riches and obligations. Despite this, in his life, the marquis had loved his youngest son most and doted upon him regularly. Once he was dead, the two older brothers made the younger one's life miserable, considering him a good for nothing spoiled brat who had not deserved their father's love. They taunted him, reminding him that at the end of the day, their father had not seen him fit to rule over anything but a talking cat shod in leather boots. The youngest brother spent as much time as possible away from the castle, taking refuge in long walks by the riverside with only his cat for company.
One day, he happened upon a beautiful miller's daughter alongside the river and fell madly in love. After some time of walking to the mill whenever he could and watching her, he finally plucked up the courage to talk to her. Slowly they began to spend more time together and she fell in love with him as well.
"Marry me,” the miller's daughter said one afternoon after realizing the marquis's son wouldn’t offer on his own.
"I can't,” the boy replied.
"Why not? Don't you love me?”
"Of course I do. But marriage is complicated.” Before she could ask what he meant, the boy left, calling to the cat to follow.
“What got your fur all tied in a knot?” the cat asked as they returned to the castle.
“She wants me to marry her, Puss!” the boy cried unhappily, “but my brothers will never allow me to wed a commoner. Just last night I heard them speaking of marrying me off to the daughter of a nearby earl. What am I to do?”
“I have taken a liking to that mill, where there is an abundance of mice for me to catch, and I am getting tired of my fancy boots, so I will help you. Never fear, young master. You will soon be happily married to the love of your life.” the cat replied, removing his hat and bowing mockingly low.
“What’s the catch?” the young master asked, knowing his cat was more devious than he appeared.
“Nothing at all, master. Just be warned that you can not have everything in life. If you are rich in happiness, you will be poor in gold and comforts.”
“All of that does not matter to me. I will gladly live as a pauper for the rest of my days for the chance to be happy,” the boy cried at once.
“Very well,” said Puss, “now you must only do exactly as I say.”
The cat told his master to return to the castle without him. The boy watched the cat walk away in his signature boots into the distance, wondering if it was wise to entrust his fate to the creature’s paws.
The wise old cat immediately set to work. First he went to a warren where he knew there were many rabbits and spent quite a few hours trying to catch one. When he finally managed he decided that next time he did such a thing, he would remember to bring a sack with him. He then made his way to the earl’s household and told him he had a gift for his daughter from the marquis’s son, who wished for her hand in marriage.
“Your hopefully to be fiancé thought this would be a fitting gift for such a fine and noble lady such as yourself,” the cat said, taking the girl’s hand and kissing it with his furry lips.
The cat excused himself and came back a moment later holding the bloody carcass of the rabbit which he had hidden in the gardens.
The earl’s daughter shrieked and swore she would never marry the marquis’s son, not even if he was the richest and most handsome man in the entire land. The cat quickly made his escape back to the marquis’s castle.
“The first part is done. Now we must make you disappear,” said the cat to his master.
“How do we do that?” asked the boy.
“Leave that up to me,” Puss said, and for the next few weeks he returned to his normal activity of lazing around putting on shows for the ladies in the castle.
One day, the two older brothers went for a ride besides the river in order to inspect their lands. The cat immediately went to the youngest brother and said, “If you follow my advice, you shall be free from your brothers as you are already free from your engagement. All you must do is go to the riverside to a spot that I will show you and bring a change of clothes and leave the rest to me.”
The boy naturally did as he was told.
When the brothers came near, the cat told the boy to change into his spare clothes and hide. He then placed the clothes the boy had been wearing in a spot by the river and jumped out right on time to meet the two brothers.
“Oh, the horror! Your brother, he has drowned, my lords. He was washing in the river but the tide was too strong, he got pulled over the waterfall; there was nothing I could do! If you had come but a moment sooner, something might have been done, but now he is lost forever. See, his clothes are still here, right where he placed them before he jumped into his fate,” Puss cried sorrowfully, and he was so convincing the brothers fell to the ground and lamented their brother’s death, grieving over his short life and how unjustly they had treated him. They searched past the falls for a body, but none was found, so the grief-stricken brothers returned to the castle clutching the boy’s clothes, which was all that remained of him to bury.
Once they had gone, the cat went to fetch the youngest brother from his hiding place, where he had neither seen nor heard any of what had transpired.
“Am I free of my brothers?” he asked Puss.
“As free as they are of you,” the cat replied, “now all that remains is to convince the miller to accept you as his son.”
So off they set off to complete the final part of Puss’s ploy.
When they came to a split in the road, the boy began heading right towards the mill.
“Wait,” said Puss, “do not be too hasty. Her father will never agree to wed you if he realizes you have not a coin to your name and have not worked a day in your life.”
“I must at least try. You cannot expect me to give up now!”
“I don’t, master. All I ask of you is patience.”
The confused boy followed the cat down the left path.
When they entered a nearby village, Puss led the way to Potter Lane and entered the first shop.
“Good man,” said Puss, startling the poor potter, “if you do not explain to my friend here how you make your pots, I will chop you into small pieces and eat you for my dinner.”
The potter immediately complied, believing that if a cat was speaking, it would not waste its words on lies. The boy listened carefully and then they left.
Next Puss chose a pottery stall with some very impressive looking pieces.
“Pick one,” he told the boy, who promptly pointed at an interesting looking jug.
Then he jumped onto the counted and said to the astonished potter, “if you do not give me that jug I will chop you into small pieces and eat you for my dinner.”
The potter didn’t think twice, but handed over the jug.
Next they went to Tailor Road and Puss used the same threat to procure simple clothes for the boy.
Only then did they make their way towards the mill. They stopped only once, so that Puss could throw his boots into the river alongside the marquis’s son’s clothes.
The miller’s daughter was out fetching water. The boy ran towards her and clasped her hands in his.
“Will you marry me?” he asked.
“I thought marriage was complicated,” she replied.
“The complications have been fixed. I will go ask your father for you hand this moment. If you still want me, that is,” the boy said, suddenly wondering if running off so abruptly had been such a good idea.
“Of course I do,” the girl smiled.
Puss, walking on all fours, meowed and rubbed himself against the girl’s legs.
“Kind sir,” the boy began, “I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”
The miller looked him up and down, “and what do you have to offer me in return, boy?”
“I do not have a coin to my name, but I am a hard worker and will be willing to learn the miller’s trade from you. Also, I am a practiced potter and will be able to shape pots to sell once I can get the right instruments.”
The boy presented the miller with the jug and explained to him how it had been made using wheels and kilns. The miller admired the piece until at last he was slightly convinced. Just then, the cat walked in, holding a dead mouse between its teeth.
“Is that cat yours?” the miller asked, realizing how useful such an animal would be in the mice-infested mill.
“It is, sir,” the boy replied, grinning at the cat, who winked at him in return.
“Very well. You may marry my daughter if she wishes to accept you as her husband.”
“I do father,” the girl replied.
The two were married within in the month. The boy didn’t even need to worry about proving his skill as a potter, since the miller died mysteriously a few weeks later. By then the boy had learned not to question good fortune that came his way. The deceased miller had no other children, so his daughter and her new husband inherited everything in his possession. As Puss had foreseen, they lived happily ever after but worked hard and were as poor as could be. Puss also lived pretty happily on the mice in the mill, but he did not speak again while his master still lived.
There was once a poor miller who had nothing to leave his three sons upon his death but a mill, a donkey, and a cat.
Bio: Aliza is fairy tale obsessed nineteen year old. She has already been published on EC, and she is trying to introduce herself and others to more fairy tales at taleaday.blogspot.com.