The Crimson Fairy Book HTML version

The Cottager And His Cat
Once upon a time there lived an old man and his wife in a dirty, tumble-down cottage,
not very far from the splendid palace where the king and queen dwelt. In spite of the
wretched state of the hut, which many people declared was too bad even for a pig to live
in, the old man was very rich, for he was a great miser, and lucky besides, and would
often go without food all day sooner than change one of his beloved gold pieces.
But after a while he found that he had starved himself once too often. He fell ill, and had
no strength to get well again, and in a few days he died, leaving his wife and one son
behind him.
The night following his death, the son dreamed that an unknown man appeared to him
and said: 'Listen to me; your father is dead and your mother will soon die, and all their
riches will belong to you. Half of his wealth is ill-gotten, and this you must give back to
the poor from whom he squeezed it. The other half you must throw into the sea. Watch,
however, as the money sinks into the water, and if anything should swim, catch it and
keep it, even if it is nothing more than a bit of paper.'
Then the man vanished, and the youth awoke.
The remembrance of his dream troubled him greatly. He did not want to part with the
riches that his father had left him, for he had known all his life what it was to be cold and
hungry, and now he had hoped for a little comfort and pleasure. Still, he was honest and
good-hearted, and if his father had come wrongfully by his wealth he felt he could never
enjoy it, and at last he made up his mind to do as he had been bidden. He found out who
were the people who were poorest in the village, and spent half of his money in helping
them, and the other half he put in his pocket. From a rock that jutted right out into the sea
he flung it in. In a moment it was out of sight, and no man could have told the spot where
it had sunk, except for a tiny scrap of paper floating on the water. He stretched down
carefully and managed to reach it, and on opening it found six shillings wrapped inside.
This was now all the money he had in the world.
The young man stood and looked at it thoughtfully. 'Well, I can't do much with this,' he
said to himself; but, after all, six shillings were better than nothing, and he wrapped them
up again and slipped them into his coat.
He worked in his garden for the next few weeks, and he and his mother contrived to live
on the fruit and vegetables he got out of it, and then she too died suddenly. The poor
fellow felt very sad when he had laid her in her grave, and with a heavy heart he
wandered into the forest, not knowing where he was going. By-and-by he began to get
hungry, and seeing a small hut in front of him, he knocked at the door and asked if they
could give him some milk. The old woman who opened it begged him to come in, adding