THE WHITE CAT
There was once a king who had three sons, all remarkably handsome in their persons, and in their tempers brave and noble. Some wicked courtiers made the king believe that the princes were impatient to wear the crown, and that they were contriving a plot to deprive him of his sceptre and his kingdom. The king felt he was growing old; but as he found himself as capable of governing as he had ever been, he had no inclination to resign his power; and therefore, that he might pass the rest of his days peaceably, he determined to employ the princes in such a manner, as at once to give each of them the hope of succeeding to the crown, and fill up the time they might otherwise spend in so undutiful a manner. He sent for them to his cabinet, and after conversing with them kindly, he added: “You must be sensible, my dear children, that my great age prevents me from attending so closely as I have hitherto done to state affairs. I fear this may be injurious to my subjects; I therefore desire to place my crown on the head of one of you, but it is no more than just, that in return for such a present, you should procure me some amusement in my retirement, before I leave the Capital for ever. I cannot help thinking, that a little dog, that is handsome, faithful, and engaging, would be the very thing to make me happy; so that without bestowing a preference on either of you, I declare that he who brings me the most perfect little dog shall be my successor.” The princes were much surprised at the fancy of their father to have a little dog, yet they accepted the proposition with pleasure: and accordingly, after taking leave of the king, who presented them with abundance of money and jewels, and appointed that day twelvemonth for their return, they set off on their travels.
Before taking leave of each other, however, they took some refreshment together, in an old palace about three miles out of town where they agreed to meet in the same place on that day twelvemonth, and go all together with their presents to court. They also agreed to change their names, that they might be unknown to every one in their travels.
Each took a different road; but it is intended to relate the adventures of only the youngest, who was the handsomest, most amiable, and accomplished prince that had ever been seen. No day passed, as he travelled from town to town, that he did not buy all the handsome dogs that fell in his way; and as soon as he saw one that was handsomer than those he had before, he made a present of the last; for twenty servants would have been scarcely sufficient to take care of all the dogs he was continually buying.