Story of the Snake and the Cat.*

[IN a city of Cathay there dwelt a good and blameless woman with her husband. By-and-by she bore him a son, and thereupon died. The man got a nurse to bring up the child. Now he had a cat, of which he was very fond, and to which his wife had been also much attached.

One day the man went out on some business, and the nurse also had left the house, no one remaining but the infant and the cat. Presently a frightful snake came in, and made for the cradle to devour the child. The cat sprang upon it, and after a desperate fight succeeded in killing it. When the man returned, he was horrified at seeing a mangled mass lying on the floor. The snake had vomited so much blood and poison that its form was hidden, and the man, thinking that the cat, which came up to him, rubbing against his legs, had killed his son, struck it a blow, and slew it on the spot. But immediately after he discovered the truth of the matter, how the poor cat had killed the snake in defence of the boy, and his grief knew no bounds.]*

“Shed not, then, the blood of your innocent son,” proceeds the vazīr. “If the officer had reflected, he would not have acted so rashly. Slay not a prince on the testimony of a woman. Women are fickle and inconstant, and pray at ten qiblas* in one day. I will now, with your Majesty's permission, relate a story, still more entertaining than the last, of the merchant's wife and the old woman who conducted her to a lover.”