This section is from the book "The Book Of Cats", by Charles Henry Ross. Also available from Amazon: The Book Of Cats: A Chit-Chat Chronicle Of Feline Facts And Fancies, Legendary, Lyrical, Medical, Mirthful And Miscellaneous.
Then the three Princes started on the journey; but it is of the youngest of the three that I have now to tell. He travelled for many days, and at last found himself, one evening, at the door of a splendid castle, but not a man or woman was to be seen. A number of hands, with no bodies to them, appeared: two hands took off the Prince's cloak, two others seated him in a chair, another pair brought a brush to brush his hair, and several pairs waited on him. at supper. Then some more hands came and put him to bed in a fine chamber, where he slept all night, but still no one appeared. The next morning, the hands brought him into a splendid hall, where there sat on a throne a large White Cat, who made him sit beside her, and expressed herself glad to see him. Next day, the Prince and the White Cat went out hunting together: the Cat was mounted on a fine spirited monkey, and seemed very fond of the Prince, who, on his part, was delighted with her wit and cleverness.
Instead of dogs, Cats hunted for them. These creatures ran with great agility after rats, and mice, and birds, catching and killing a great number of them; and sometimes the White Cat's monkey would climb a tree, with the White Cat on his back, after a bird, a mouse, or a squirrel. This pleasant life went on for a long time: every day the White Cat became more fond of the Prince, while, on his part, the Prince could not help loving the poor Cat, who was so kind and attentive to him. At last, the time drew near when the Prince was to return home, and he had not thought of looking for a little dog; but the Cat gave him a casket, and told him to open this before the King, and all would be well; so the Prince journeyed home, taking with him an ugly mongrel cur. When the brothers saw this, they laughed secretly to each other, and thought themselves quite secure, so far as their younger brother was concerned. They had, with infinite pains, procured each of them a very rare and beautiful little dog, and each thought himself quite sure to get the prize. When the day came on which the dogs were to be shown, each of the two elder Princes produced a beautiful little dog, on a silk velvet cushion: no one could judge which was the prettier. The youngest now opened his casket, and found a walnut: he cracked this walnut, and out of the walnut sprang a little tiny dog, of exquisite beauty. Still the old King would not give up his kingdom. He told the young Princes they must bring him home a piece of cambric so fine that it could be threaded through the eye of a needle; and so they went away in search of such a piece of cambric. Again the youngest Prince passed a year with the White Cat, and again the Cat gave him a walnut when the time came for him to return home. The three Princes were summoned before their father, who produced a needle. The first and second Princes brought a piece of cambric which would almost, but not quite, go through the needle's eye. The youngest Prince broke open his walnut-shell: he found inside it a small nut-shell, and then a cherrystone, and then a grain of wheat, and then a grain of millet, and in this grain of millet a piece of cambric four hundred yards long, which passed easily through the eye of the needle. But the old King said: "He who brings the most beautiful lady shall have the kingdom."
The Prince went back to the White Cat, and told her what his father had said. She replied "Cut off my head and my tail."
At last he consented: instantly the Cat was transformed into a beautiful Princess; for she had been condemned by a wicked fairy to appear as a Cat, till a young Prince should cut off her head and tail. The Prince and Princess went to the old King's court, and she was far more beautiful than the ladies brought by the other two Princes. But she did not want the kingdom, for she had four of her own already. One of these she gave to each of the elder brothers of the young Prince, and over the other two she ruled with her husband, for the young Prince married her, and they lived happily together all their lives.
In Mr. Morley's Fairy Tales, there is a funny passage: - "'I wonder,' said a sparrow, 'what the eagles are about, that they don't fly away with the Cats? And now I think of it,a civil question cannot give offence.' So the sparrow finished her breakfast, went to the eagle, and said: "'May it please your royalty, I see you and your race fly away with the birds and the lambs that do no harm. But there is not a creature so malignant as a Cat; she prowls about our nests, eats up our young, and bites off our own heads. She feeds so daintily that she must be herself good eating. She is lighter to carry than a bird, and you would get a famous grip in her loose fur. Why do you not feed upon Cat?'
"'Ah!' said the eagle, 'there is sense in your question. I had the worms to hear this morning, asking me why I did not breakfast upon sparrows. Do I see a morsel of worm's skin on your beak, my child?'
"The sparrow cleaned his bill upon his bosom, and said:- 'I should like to see the worm who came with that enquiry.'
"'Come forward, worm,' the eagle said. But when the worm appeared, the sparrow snapped him up, and ate him. Then he went on with his argument against the Cats."
Everybody has heard of the Kilkenny Cats, and how they fought in a saw-pit with such ferocious determination, that when the battle was over, nothing was remaining of either combatant except his tail. Of course, we none of us suppose that the tale is true, but some writers think that the account of the mutual destruction of the contending Cats was an allegory designed to typify the utter ruin to which centuries of litigation and embroilment on the subject of conflicting rights and privileges tended to reduce the respective exchequers of the rival municipal bodies of Kilkenny and Irishtown - separate corporations existing within the liberties of one city, and the boundaries of the respective jurisdiction of which had never been marked out or defined by an authority to which either was willing to bow. The desperate struggles for supremacy of these parish worthies began A.D. 1377, and they fought, as only vestrymen can fight, a little over three hundred years, by the end of which time there was, as you may suppose, very little left of them but their tails, for, of course, there was a disinterested third person to whom the affairs were referred for arbitration, in the old way that the Cats appealed to the monkey upon the great cheese question - who swallowed his huge mouthful. In the end it would appear that all the property of either side was mortgaged, and bye-laws were passed by each party that their respective officers should be content with the dignity of their station, and forego all hope of salary till the suit at law with the other "pretended corporation" should be terminated.